Sunday, June 26, 2005

Made it. The tori at the top has coins stuck into it, it's kind of an odd piece of wood. I had a juice-box-sized cup of sake at 4:50am to congratulate myself, what a way to wake up.
Here's an unhappy camper on the way down. Don't ask how she did it, she's just tougher than the average bear. For me, I puke, I stop.
Hiking down the from the ash hole of Fuji-san.
Well, Fuji proved a worthy adversary. Let's just say that it was a hell of a hike. I guess we were asking for it though. We left Nagano at about 11:30 on Saturday morning and drove the 3 hours to Yamanashi prefecture where Fuji, or at least half of it, resides. It's a big damn mountain. While the air was ridiculously hazy and we couldn't see the thing from 20 kilometers away, at sunset, it cleared off a little and we were able to see the super cone. It's pretty super. Did I mention that we had hiked about an hour up a small neighboring mountain to go rock climbing? Well, that's where I first saw the Fuj-ster. We only climbed a little, primarily because there were hideous amounts of gnats at the base of the climb and secondarily because we were 'saving our energy' for the 8 hour climb ahead of us.

After sweating copiously on the rock climbing hill we drove down to the resorty area surrounding the most climbed mountain in the world and pounded down some ramen, and not the little cup-noodle type either, big fat greasy ramen from a restaurant. Following this gustatory masochism, we spent the better part of the next hour trying to find the entrance to one of the 4 Fuji trails. The hike up Fuji is broken up by "stations" 1-9 with most hikes actually starting at the 5th station, and since there are 4 routes up Fuji, there are 4 5th stations. We started at one about 2000 meters up the side of the 3700 meter volcano. This meant that we had a little more than a mile to go, straight up that is. Fuji is not so impressive for it's height, there are hundreds of peaks in North America that top it, but it's amazing because it's a giant mountain that sticks up out of seemingly nowhere.

Our general plan was to climb until sunrise, this being about 11:00pm. It sounds a little crazy but with the trail so well marked and travelled, it was a simple matter to follow it, even at night. We each had headlamps and there was a waning gibbous moon overhead so most of the time we were able to climb without help from the lamps. Things were fine, a slog to be sure, but more or less fine for much of the trip, until about 3000 meters when Jennifer started to feel a little dizzy and sick. Altitude sickness is a bitch and she puked about 3 times on the way up. I realize now that she probably should have stayed at one of the stations along the way and rested, but eventually the 4 of us made it to the top at about 4:45 in time for a sunrise that we never saw due to the cloudbank in the way. Damn. Coming down was pretty easy because the top of the mountain is actually a giant cinder cone and we were able to bound down the sandy trail in about 2.5 hours where the trip to the top had taken something like 6 hours. Overall, it's something that I'm glad to have done, and am not sorry to never do again. Check out the photos and you'll see what I mean.

Friday, June 24, 2005

So, in doing what one ought to do in Japan, we will climb Mt. Fuji tomorrow. It'll be a bloody slog up a giant mountain for sure. I can't wait. Apparently, being as it's a giant cinder cone, it's not much to look at on the way up. That's ok however, we're going to climb it tomorrow night. That's the general way, climb at night, watch the sunrise and then descend by 10 the next day. Sunrise is supposed to be the only time when there is actually any visibility to speak of. I'm hoping to snap some good pictures, and with the wonders of Photoshop, you'll really be able to see the UFOs in the pictures.
If we're feeling ridiculously genki (energetic that is) we may stop at the Fuji-kyu Highland, home of the worlds fastest or tallest rollercoaster, I can't remember which. Somehow, I doubt that will actually occurr.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

So the latest plan is that Jennifer and I along with our trusty companions, Lara and Shane, are going to go to China for the month of August. Originally we had planned on driving around the northern part of Japan for a month, but then Alf emailed me and this led to that...

Anyway, tickets in August are pretty expensive between China and Japan, the prices are as hot as the anti-Japanese rhetoric in Chinese chat rooms. So, in the hope of cooling off and taking life slow, we're hoping to go by ferry, all the way from Osaka to Shanghai. We'll see how that goes. I always feel a little nervous when I'm plying the open sea, something about not having any land in sight kind of freaks me out. Anyway, I think that the 48 hours or so that I'll be cooped up on a ship will be a good psychological transition period for me. Usually I'm too busy freaking out about getting all my stuff in order to actually think about what I'm doing. I ended up in Japan before I was even really aware of what was happening. It may be just better for me to take life a little slower. Who needs speed anyway?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

News from my homefront.

Ian's back from the southern hemisphere, and indeed he's already tired enough of home to be heading back up to the Twin Cities today. I called home last night and talked with him for about an hour, it was good to catch up on such brotherly topics as nuggies and wedgies as well as the finer points of Chilean politics. He weathered his time away well and had only one major bout of diarreah. I feel vindicated in sending him off with the appropriate warning and medication. It's really interesting as the older brother to look back on conversations with my family members over the years. I remember when I became old enough to actually talk to my parents as an adult. I recall talking with Ian after his higschool graduation and thinking that he was cool for the first time, not the silly little kid I had punched a lot. Leah, well she still whines, but at least she's easy to talk to. Asa, always the odd one out is extremely intriguing, but you wouldn't know it because he never speaks.

Speaking of developments; Leah has opted to join the Macalester hordes, as I may have mentioned before, but she also has disavowed cars for a while. She crashed the little white Toyota that my parents bought when she destroyed the big grey van known as Sparky. Apparently there was a disturbing bug in the car and as she drove on an empty street, she tried to shoo it out the window. This in effect shooed the steering wheel into a perfect trajectory with a parked car. Idiot. Asa is pissed because with her off to college he would have taken the reigns to the car over on his 16th birthday, which is coming up this August.

Shit, you leave a country for 2 fricking years and you come back with a baby brother who drives cars. At least I'll be able to see some of the Macalester soccer games. I have missed all of Ian's previous 3 seasons because I've been out of the country. Idiot again!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Last week marked the reopening of Watahan, the nearest department store to us. They sold primarily hardware and plants but they also had a good selection of tropical fish and some puppies in little glass boxes, as well as kitchen goods and the like. Now, they've reopened and added a refrigerated foods section. Jennifer and I showed up to check things out and were shocked by several things.

1. There was a lineup out the door to get into the place.
2. Once inside people were unable to move because the store was too crowded.
3. Jennifer shoved an old lady who was blocking the aisle.
4. People were again in a fifteen minute line up to get a box of tissues.

I guess this just shows everyone how boring life in Japan can be. This was like the cultural event of the century.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

According to the word on the street, my brother gets back from Chile today. Techically, I suppose that he's already back in the US, but Miami is not a civilized place and therefore doesn't really count. He's flying into MSP sometime today and my mom will pick him up at the airport. He was in various parts of the only country actually shaped like its namesake vegetable, but primarily in Valparaiso on an SIT program. Three months the boy was gone, it seems like no time at all for me, the lonely expatriate, but I guess that the three months seemed like a while to be traveling in Europe, or living in Chicago as I did. Anyway, bienvenidos Ian!

Monday, June 06, 2005

What do you do when there is only one cookie left and you and your brother both want it?
What do you do when it seems like there is no way to break the tie?
What do you do when there are three of you going for the same fish in the supermarket?
What do you do to determine who has to speak to the English teacher?
What do you do if the election is too close to call?

THAT'S RIGHT! ROCK PAPER SCISSORS!!!! Rock, paper, scissors, or "janken" as they call it here is like a national past time. In a culture that prides itself on harmony, being a greedy pig is just not an option. In comes "janken" a foolproof and harmonious way of deciding who gets what. Recently it seems that the contest of wits and skill may take off overseas. Check out what may have been the most expensive game of rock-paper-scissors ever, "Rock paper scissors settles auction house battle"

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Until last week, I was unsure whether or not there was poison ivy in Japan. Now I know the answer is yes. As a child I once thought myself immune to poison ivy when after running through a forest full of it, I was totally without blemish. Then something happened, maybe it was the strange brew of hormones brought on by puberty, maybe it was a hex by the local gypsy, but now, now I am a sufferer of the scourge of the three leafed demon. The rash first starts as an itch, then moves to full blown blisters by the next day. From this point it takes about a week for me to recover my sanity as the tremendous itching simply will not go away. The last stage is where my skin looks like the inner flesh of a pomagranate. Squeezing the skin is like pinching a grapefruit, it'll shoot juice several inches.

Just thought I'd let the world know a little more about my allergic reactions.