Friday, September 27, 2013

12 million and counting. Tokyo, Japan. Part 1.

Post 9.

We made it. The best part of the flight was that we were able to get a sneak peak of the summit of Mount Fuji from the airplane.
Mount Fuji visible above the cloud layers. (Left center)
We arrived in Tokyo in the late evening and zoomed through the brightly lit city on highways that allowed us to look into sixth floor windows. It felt like the city never ended as we made our way from the airport to our hostel. Despite a long, tiring day of traveling, I was super anxious to start exploring! For our time in Tokyo we stayed in the Olympic Youth Hostel that was built for the 1964 Olympics. (Congrats Tokyo on getting the opportunity to host the games again in 2020!!) The rooms were pretty simple and required us to make our own beds, take out our garbage, and shower in the public baths. 

We took a bus tour of the major Tokyo area on our first full day. We stopped at the Tokyo Metropolitan building which had a great view of the sprawling city from the top floor. I literally couldn't see anything on the horizon except for buildings! I knew Tokyo was big but this city is MONSTROUS! I also snagged a smashed penny, well it was more of a round copper piece, from the observation deck to add to my collection! Yay! 

Our bus tour also stopped at the famous Asakusa Shrine located in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo. There was so much color and life in the shrine and plenty of tourists too. The streets surrounding the shrine were jam packed with food vendors and trinket stores. I took advantage of the touristy atmosphere and loaded up on souvenirs and took some traditional photos underneath the giant lanterns.

That night we did a little exploring of a nearby neighborhood, Shibuya. Shibuya's claim to fame is its giant crosswalk where all traffic is stopped and pedestrians can cross the intersection where ever they want! When we visited it felt like a mini Times Square. There was tons of advertisements on the surrounding buildings and people were EVERYWHERE! When the little green walking man appeared on the crosswalks the mass of people started to move. The entire crosswalk was filled and in a matter of seconds we reached the other side and it was over. The rest of the neighborhood was lively and energetic, populated by mostly young people seeking out some nightlife. After a bit more exploring, we called it quits for the night and meandered back to the hostel. We had quite the mountain of a day ahead of us...Fuji that is. 

Believe the rumors, I did indeed hike on Mount Fuji among the clouds and volcanic ejecta. It was a geologists paradise, if you were able to escape the large tour groups of overly prepared hikers milling about the station before their ascent. Unfortunately I did not reach the summit. We only had four hours total on Mount Fuji and it would have been extremely taxing to attempt the summit, although some Augie kids did attempt and succeed in making it all the way up! We took a bus to the fifth station which is 2300 meters above sea level, or about 1476 meters below the summit. The gung-ho hikers bolted to the trail as soon as we arrived to make sure they could make it up and back in time, but my group decided to take it slower and admire the sights and sounds of Fuji. We emerged above the tree line after about 10 minutes of hiking to see the patchy clouds below and above us. Some of the distant land was visible through the clouds and I was speechless. You could see for miles and the small bit of sun poking through the clouds lit up the view with a dazzling brilliance. 

Due to Fuji's eruptive history, much of the ground we tread on was igneous, or volcanic rock. It was extremely porous which means that the magma that it originated from contained many gases. The numerous air pockets also means it weighs less than you would expect and the more I could carry back down the mountain.
Personally, my experience on Mount Fuji was perfect, except for maybe the lack of time and abundance of cloud cover. Our small group hiked up to station seven on the Yoshida Trail and we were able to walk through clouds, meet other English speaking hikers, and take in the fresh air. But for others it was extremely stressful. A group of five of our students didn't return to the buses at the appointed time, which got everyone worried. We knew they had attempted to reach the summit and some of us worried that the worst had happened. I knew most of the people who hadn't returned and knew that they were experienced hikers and knew that they would make smart choices. Turns out once they reached the summit they took the wrong path back down and ended up at a fifth station on a different side of Mount Fuji. After realizing their mistake and deciding they wouldn't make it back to our buses by the appointed time, they made their own arrangements via public transit to return to our hostel. They all made it home safe and sound late in the evening. I'm pretty sure they gave our director, Marsha Smith, a bit of a heart attack! 

She wasn't the only professor feeling the stress of the day on her shoulders. Dr. Wolf, the geology professor, also had a stressful climb. As he ascended the mountain, he stumbled upon a man who was laying down on the trail and he appeared to be bleeding from his head. Wolf looked around shocked that people were simply walking past this man and not helping him. Wolf started to perform CPR while an ambulance was called but it was to no avail he must have been without help for too long. He had had a seizure, fell down, and cracked his head on the rocky ground. But I'm proud of my professor for taking action when others wouldn't. 

Overall it was an emotionally and physically draining day. Especially with traveling with all 74 students. I can get a bit frustrated when we are all forced to travel on a bus for two days in a row. Definitely feeling the need to get some alone time on this trip! Maybe I'll hit up a nearby temple, they tend to have quiet, calm atmospheres that might be just what I need. 
Finding solace on Mount Fuji.

Unfortunately, Spot failed to make an appearance again during these two days. He is just so comfy in my purse! But don't worry he'll be in the next one. Tokyo had plenty of fun to offer during our stay!


  1. How great to climb at least part of Mt. Fuji! The beauty of God's creation. I have two smashed pennies for you!

  2. WOW!!! There are more people in Tokyo than in NYC!!! And I thought That was crowded! Alone time indeed! Definitely NOT Glacier! ;-) Glad you continue to have amazing adventures!


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