For those who have followed this blog for a while – I mean back in its earlier form on blogger as well as here on Word Press, you will know that there is a bane in my life – that is Mount Fuji. No, we are not bitter enemies or anything, I haven’t been attacked by lava or been frozen to within a second of death by its icy winds whilst trying to climb to the peak in the midst of winter, but I have never ever been able to get a real ‘money shot’ as it were. I’ve been several places where I should have been able to great a good pic, had the weather allowed for it. But the weather did not. Most recently, at Hakone, there are supposed to be brilliant views of Fujiyama, but alas, the clouds had chosen the wrong place to hover.
So, it was last week, that I headed out with the in-laws to see something of Mount Fuji and its surroundings. Actually, if you have a car there really is a lot to do and see in the area. I’m sure there are tour options available as well. We left at around eight o’clock from near Yokohama, onto the express way and in a couple of hours, we were in the area. We were heading to a place called Gogome – a fair way up the mountain, from where there are trails and so forth. I was hoping to do a little climbing, although it is not the season for heading to the peak of Mount Fuji – that’s only really July and August, maybe a bit of September. Otherwise there is too much snow.
Well, when we arrive a few kilometres from this station – Gogome, the entrance gate was closed, although they were letting buses go up there. The weather was very gloomy, there was a bit of rain all day, which figured after my previous experiences with Mount Fuji. So, we were in a bit of disarray!
We headed down to the visitor’s not too far from Karaguchiko, where I was able to watch a video about Mount Fuji and see what I was missing. Actually, it proved very insightful. The mountain is called Fuji, and it is made up of a number of different volcanoes that sit under the big mountain. Then there was the gift shop – every place needs a gift shop, and this one had a lot of interesting souvenirs shaped as Mount Fuji itself. Actually, Mount Fuji shaped gifts are all the rage in Kanagawa.
Also, we learned about some of the other attractions about the place, and were able to plan the day around them. Despite the bad weather, we were able to see and do a fair bit. There was a famous temple, so interesting tunnels that had been created out of lava, a sort of open-air museum with huts with thatched rooves, and some amazing caves worth seeing.
So, we set off in the area around Mount Fuji to check some of these places out. We first headed to Sengen Shrine. The wiki on the Sengen Shrine says that it predates the historical period. Wow. I’m sure the current buildings are not so old, but it is a beautiful shrine in really beautiful woods. Some start their ascent to the top of Mount Fuji from this shrine, it is the beginning of a popular route. There’s a wonderful avenue of trees leading to the temple, a large gate and stone lanterns, a small river. It’s really a beautiful little spot.
Then we journeyed to see one of these ‘Lava Tree Molds’. From what I can gather, these molds are created when there was an eruption and lava spewed forth down the mountainside. It destroyed all in its wake, including the trees, slowly destroying the roots too, and then it escaped in some instances continuing downwards, out through a hole it created in the earth. Some are quite big.
I found a little ladder on the side of the road. It wasn’t exactly sign-posted all that well, but find it I did, and I went for a short walk through the beautiful forest. The woods and forests are so green and beautiful in the area – the properties of volcanic rock, dirt and the like no doubt. There was a little entrance with Japanese signing in the middle of the forest, and the people were going on with hard hats on and a little light on top of the hard hat.
It was really low in places,I had to crawl, but it was big enough for a human to go in and out. Like Mount Fuji in general, it’s considered to be something of a special, holy place. Whilst inside there were a small group of devotees singing something like a hymn. It’s a very small, echoey space that opened out a little directly under with the tree would have stood. It was pretty cool.
And from there, we headed to an open air museum and lunch, but I’m saving that for Thursday’s blog so come back and read about the ice caves and the open air museum!
I am officially home in Australia now for nearly two rather strange days. Next week you can look forward to me talking a little more about Australia and settling back in after basically three years of living and travelling elsewhere. It’s been quite a ride. And there’s a new one ahead. Stay tuned – also the next podcast is due out on Friday as well and it’s a lot of fun as I talk to the first Jamaican I’ve interviewed for the podcast. Thursday is the second part of this one – see you then! May the journey never end!