Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mount Fuji Trekking (8)

A Journey to the EAST (26th July to 2nd August 2010) - Part 1

Written by Jayne Aw

Mount Fuji painting - drawn by Jayne Aw

In Search for Immortality

Legend has it that in the later part of his life, after unifying China in 221 BCE, Qin Shi Huang(秦始皇)feared death and desperately sought the elixir of life to allow him to live forever. So he made several attempts to find the fabled Penglai Island (篷莱仙岛) where Penglai Mountain is located, but to no avail. It was believed that the fabled island is Japan while Penglai Mountain is Mount Fuji (Fujisan). One of such attempts was led by Xu Fu(徐福)with ships carrying thousands of young men and women heading towards Japan.

Not being able to find the elixir of life, these people never returned to China for fear of being executed. Instead they set foot in Japan and settled down. The name of Japan was coined as it took them a day and a half to reach the island. Try saying this in Cantonese and note the similarity of the two words.

Today, Xu Fu’s tomb can still be found in Wakayama in Japan with the inscription of “Tomb of Xu Fu of the Qin Dynasty”. The legend of Penglai Mountain also passed on to Japan where it took shape as the legend of Horai, a name that is still being used in some parts of Fujisan.

While Qin Shi Huang’s obsession with immortality had led his men to Japan in search for elixir of life, the obsession with suffering had led the twelve of us to Fujisan in search for pains……

Option 1 vs. Option 2

After making up my mind to go for Option 2 (via bus to 5th station), it was a great relief for me as I needn't worry about the backpack load since food and water are aplenty for sales at the mountain huts from 5th station onwards. Option 2 seemed a much easier option to climbing Fujisan with lesser load and shorter distance (about 5 hours as vs. 10 hours from the base). After all, my goal was to reach Fujisan summit, no one cares where I start from. But somehow that little voice kept whispering to me that this was not what I truly desired to attempt.

Sharon finally broke her silence. She called me few days before departure and was pestering me to join her for Option 1. I was hesitating, but told her that I would consider based on 2 conditions. First if I could stuff all my things into a smaller 28 litre backpack instead of the 60 litre; second was with the blessing of Captain Fujisan; and the rest was what it was meant to happen………

Day 1 – KLIA to Narita Airport

We took the late evening flight by JAL at 10.50 pm and arrived at Narita Airport after 7 hours flight. Had a glimpse of sun rise amidst blanket of clouds at around 4.30 am before landing at Narita at the local time of 7 am.

Day 2 – Narita to Kawaguchiko
On stepping out of the plane, we were greeted by the welcome sign to Narita. Eager to test my few limited Japanese words, I approached the airport officer to take a group photo for us. “Sumimasen, shashin o totte moraemasen ka?” I asked, but got my first Ultraman hand sign from the officer – an affirmative NO! – as he was not supposed to do so while on duty.


Jayne Aw - posing at the Narita airport, Japan

Yee Choi, who was leading this team as our Captain Fujisan, had taken a later flight by MAS and joined us at the arrival hall. From Narita Airport, we took a train to Central Narita for a brief visit to its town and the Narita-san Temple. The main road is lined with rows of small shops which give the township a contemporary Japanese look. By 12.30 pm, we hopped onto a train at Narita Station to Takao en route to Kawaguchiko, stopping halfway at Otsuki Station at about 3 pm for a quick lunch by gobbling down my 1st bowl of Japanese ramen. Never thought there would be more ramen to come by for the rest of the trip.
As the train passed through Tokyo and advanced towards Kawaguchiko, the skyline gradually transformed from a metropolitan landscape to mountain ranges and greeneries. Captain Fujisan pointed to one of the mountains and told us that that was the place of the 1985 tragic plane crash which killed 520 people including the famous Japanese singer Kyu Sakamoto who popularized the song “Sukiyaki” in the sixties.

After an almost 3.5 hour ride by train, we reached Kawaguchiko Station and checked into Kawaguchiko Station Inn for a night stay before embarking the climb to Fujisan the following day.

Day 3 – Climbing Fujisan via Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail

We got up early for breakfast in the hotel at 6.30 am. It was a traditional Japanese bento with grilled saba fish completed with tamago, pickles, miso soup, rice and fruit. Japanese rice has a very nice texture and many of us helped ourselves with second serving. After breakfast, we were supposed to pack up and leave for Kawaguchiko Station to catch the shuttle bus to the starting point of the Yoshidaguchi climbing trail. However, as we dilly-dallied over the use of toilets, Pei Ling, Sharon and I each got a yellow card from Captain Fujisan for being late.

Twelve enthusiastic trekkers from Kuala Lumpur posing with Mount Fuji at the background
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Back (L-R): Pei Ling, Jayne Aw, Weng, Chiew Hong, Yee Choi (Team Lead), Alexis, ChooTS, PK Chan.
Front: WongFK, Sharon Tan, KC, Gary Chin.

The official climbing season for Fujisan is from July to August as the mountain is free of snow and mountain huts are opened for business. Climbing outside the official season is rather dangerous without alpine climbing experience and equipment.

Fujisan is divided into 10 stations with 1st station at the foot and 10th at the summit. There are four 5th stations on different sides of the mountains, from where climbers usually start their ascent to the summit. Bus services are available from all sides to the 5th stations via Kawaguchiko, Subashiri, Gotemba or Fujinomiya.

Captain Fujisan, however, took us through a rarely used route by today’s trekkers via the Yoshidaguchi climbing trail, which is a traditional pilgrimage route with the starting point at the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine, a sacred place for the Fujisan faith.

There are more than one thousand Fuji Sengen Shrines across Japan, dedicated to Princess Konohanasakuya, the Shinto deity Fujisan. In the past, pilgrims approaching the mountain from the north side would commence their ascent from this shrine, but most of today's hikers opt for a bus or car ride to the 5th station which is halfway up the mountain, and start to climb from there.

A group photo in front of Sengen Shrine just before the actual start of ascent to the peak of Mount Fuji
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From the shrine, it took us 3 hours to reach 1st station, passing through an undulating and shaded forest that is lined with predominantly old pine trees. In between we had to cross some public roads that cut through part of the forest. About 30 minutes before reaching 1st station, we came across a place that is called Umagaeshi(马返)(literary it means Horse Return), where historically horses were used to transport people and things up to Fujisan but could go no further than this point. But for us, we had no horse and no porters. So we had to carry our week-long clothing and stuff from the shrine to here, and thereafter up and down Fujisan. Unlike in Nepal where porters are cheap and plenty, it’s kind of hard to get a Japanese porter, if ever there’s any.
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Group posing at Umagaeshi -- turning point for horses (in olden days)

Along the journey, we met 3 Japanese trekkers, one of whom could speak English and was explaining to us the history of Fujisan climbing. Conversing with him in English, he was impressed that Malaysian could speak fluent English. It was a great honor for one who had climbed Fujisan 33 times in one’s lifetime as commemorated by the stone monuments erected along the trail, for one had to be healthy, physically fit and rich to complete such ritual in the ancient time.


A learned Japanese trekker explaining the history of climbing up Fujisan. In the photo... KC and Pei Ling.
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Trekking from 1st station to 5th station took us another 2.5 hours. Thereafter it was a steep climb going through slabs of stones and rocks all the way up to 8th station on a barren volcanic surface. The elite group that was led by Captain Fujisan was dashing all the way towards 8th station to book a sleeping place at the hut, while the slower group that I was in, was stopping at most of the station huts for a rest and to buy some hot drinks. All in all it took the elite group about 10 hours to reach 8th station (which could be faster had they not waited for us), while the slower group in a commendable 11 hours.

Securing a place to sleep in the hut seemed a great deal as 8th station was packed with trekkers. Basically one was given a space big enough to lay a sleeping bag with shoulder touching each other’s. The twelve of us were put in a small compartment with Sharon and KC forming the dividing line between the guys and the ladies, as I was teasing them the Butterfly Lovers (梁山伯与祝英台)……..

Simple dinner and putting up a night in a warmth accommodation in one of the huts at Station 8 of Fujisan

Day 4 – Attempt to Fujisan Summit
After a brief rest, we got up at 1 am to get ready for the summit to Fujisan at 1.30 am. Strong wind was howling outside the hut. As I walked towards the external toilet, the wind was splashing sands into my eyes that caused discomfort. It was almost impossible to walk under such condition unless one had glasses or goggles to protect the eyes. In view of the perilous condition, the hut proprietor raised his Ultraman hand sign and asked us to wait till later time. So we went back to the hut and snuggled into the sleeping bags to continue with our slumber.

KC got up at 4.30 am to check the sunrise. Still no improvement in the weather as it was raining cats and dogs. Finally Captain Fujisan declared that we had to surrender to Nature and make our way down to 5th station after breakfast at 7.20 am.
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What a view to behold -- looking down from Station 8 of Mount Fuji

Never underestimate the summer rain of Japan for it could be as heavy and “cheong hei” as those monsoon rains back in Malaysia. I was soaking wet while descending from 8th to 5th station. The cheapo poncho didn’t help at all. In fact it was flapping like a butterfly under the strong wind. For once I thanked my 9kg backpack for anchoring my movement under the howling wind, but regretted for swapping my heavy rain coat with the lighter poncho.

Despite the rain, descending to 5th station was a breeze and took us about 2 hours. The trail was a different route from where we had ascended the previous day. Rain continued to pour at 5th station. After a bowl of ramen for my late breakfast, we took a bus back to Kawaguchiko Station and changed to another bus to Gotemba (御殿場市,), where we put up a night. This was the place where we were supposed to descend had we been able to reach Fujisan summit that morning.

Gotemba Premium Outlets

After checking into Gotemba Station Hotel in the afternoon, we took a free shuttle bus to Gotemba Premium Outlets which is the largest mall in Japan with some 210 outlets of internationally known brands of fashion, sports, food, household goods and electronics that range from everyday items to luxury goods. The prices are reasonable on average than what you would find at regular retail shops in Japan.
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To be continued ...
Please click here to read all postings relating to Mount Fuji trekking. Scroll down the pages; click Older Post for more.
Photos in this posting are extracted from Weng's and Jayne Aw's photo albums.
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Written by Jayne Aw
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Posted by KC
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mount Rinjani 2011 Invitation

I am looking for another two Chinese guy trekkers for this trekking trip in June 2011 next year with a group size of 14. The quota for six lady trekkers has been filled.

If you guys are interested to join me in this scenic trip, do write to me at:
kcleong3@gmail.com

Alternatively, if you know your friends who are interested, please help to inform them too.

Destination: Mount Rinjani (located at Lombok island next to Bali)
Start Date: June 2011
Duration: 6D 5N

The scenic Mount Rinjani at Lombok, an island next to Bali

Requirements and selection criteria:

a. 30 to 45 years old (if leng chai, below 50 years old also can consider) ... :-)
b. good fitness level
c. active in trekking.

Group interaction and training sessions in trekking will be scheduled later.
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I need to assemble the team and identify the members to get prepared for the promotional and cheap airfare offer by Air Asia.
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Do click here for more photos of Mount Rinjani, courtesy of Rambo Chan.
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Posted by KC
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mount Fuji Climbing (7)

China town in Tokyo -- the Japanese words at the top left corner gives the lead

Please click here to view photos by courtesy of ChooTS

Album 7 ... Album 8 ... Album 9 (final album)
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The Emperor Palace

ChooTS sitting in the middle of Ginza Street -- only on Sunday

Cyber-punk youth at Harajuku district


Posted by KC

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mount Fuji Climbing (6)

A glimpse of the tuna auction area -- at the famous fish market near to Shinzuku area
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Please click here to view photos by courtesy of ChooTS with his new Nikon SLR. Click here for
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Conventional and environmental friendly way of transport

At the kuan yin temple

Stay tuned for three more photo albums.
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Posted by KC
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Monday, August 23, 2010

Mount Fuji Climbing (5)

The Mount Fuji trekking team from Kuala Lumpur (26 July to 2 August 2010)

All photos are by courtesy of ChooTS, one of the Mount Fuji team members.
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Please click here for photo albums: Album 1 ... Album 2 ... Album 3
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Stay tuned for more photos.


Taking a rest and light refreshment bought from the hut somewhere at Station 8.

ChooTS (left) and Alexis

Great view

Natural solution -- The roof is further re-inforced by placing big stones to avoid being blown away by strong wind.
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Posted by KC
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mount Fuji Climbing (4)

The holidaying journey continues: The Palace in Tokyo ... ChooTS

Please click here to view photos (Album 5; final album) by courtesy of Weng.
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Alexis and Jayne

Palace is at the background (blocked by the trees)

At Ginza Street -- huge and famous shopping district of Japan ... Yee Choi, Chiew Hong and Weng. On Sunday, this street is closed for traffic.
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Weng posing with a Japanese girl in traditional costume

Japanese in traditional costume

Ice sculpture flank by two cute little girls

Roppongi Hills ... KC and the spider

The group at Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken Treasure Museum (Meiji Shrine)

At Harajuku district -- This main street is full of young people dressed in a variety of styles

Sharon Tan posing with a youth (guy) dressed in cyber-punk fashion

In summer time, temperature in the evening is 32 degrees Celsius (shown at top left of the building)

Dinner together

Monday 2 August 2010 -- the group depart from Tokyo and return to Kuala Lumpur via Japan Airline after a memorable one week of trekking and holidaying.

L-R: KC, ChooTS, Chiew Hong, Weng, Alexis, Pei Ling, Jayne Aw, PK Chan, Sharon Tan, Gary Chin, WongFK. Yee Choi, the team lead, operates the camera.

Next: Photos from ChooTS with his new Nikon SLR.

Posted by KC
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mount Fuji Trekking (3)

The journey continues ... The group descended from Station 8 of Mount Fuji (mission aborted due to bad weather) amid rain and strong wind on Thursday, 29 July 2010. Then we took bus transport to Gotemba area and put up a night there en route to Tokyo the following day.


At Factory Outlet of Gotemba; it was a day of rain and strong wind

Please click here to view photos (Album # 4) by courtesy of Weng.
(click Slideshow and hit F11 key)


Friday 30 July 2010 going to Tokyo by train ... view from the front of train ride


Arriving at Sakura Hotel, Ikebukuro of Tokyo

Visiting Samurai Street -- Rumours has it that John Lenon donated his piono and was placed in the tower

Savouring famous la men. The next batch of customers are standing behind waiting for the front line to finish their noodles.

Visiting Shinjuku area -- This is the starting area of Tokyo Marathon

Night visits

Saturday 31 July 2010 - Visiting the famous fish market near Shinjuku area where tuna fish were auctioned ... raw and fresh tuna fish

Savouring a delicious bowl of la men -- due to limited space, we have to stand and eat
(L-R: Alexis, Pei Ling, Jayne, Sharon Tan, KC, Gary Chin and Chiew Hong)

Visiting the Seated Amida Buddha or the Great Buddha of Kamakura

The kuan ying temple near by

Visiting China Town of Tokyo. This is by far the most well organized China Town.


Japan Telecom tower

Shopping in the evening ... Alexis at the foreground

(hold down Ctrl key at the bottom left of key board) Please click here to view Posting 1 and Posting 2 on trekking up Mount Fuji Japan.

Posted by KC
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