Written by Jayne Aw
Mount Fuji painting - drawn by Jayne Aw
In Search for Immortality
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
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
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.
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.
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)……..
Day 4 – Attempt to Fujisan Summit
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.
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.