I think March is a wonderful month to visit Japan….perfect temperature for a big boy like myself. I flew to Narita and then onto Osaka where my good friend Moto Tanaka was waiting for me.
So…I didn’t visit any ancient sanctuaries, hot springs, mountains or red light districts on this trip, but did have a few great dinners with some good friends. This was a short trip to Japan with Shinjuku being my home base.
My first day out I took a special express train from the enormous Shinjuku train station to Hashimoto station where I met up with my good friends Yuichiro Kanagawa, Yasufumi Mizuguchi and Ryo Saito. I have known Yuichiro and Saito for many years and I had the pleasure to hike up Mt. Fuji with them 1 ½ years ago. We walked off to a local izakaya (Japanese tavern) and had a chance to talk about old times and chomp down on some delicious local dishes.
After a day flight to Komatsu and back for some meetings we hit another local izakaya but with different group of friends…Nishigaki, Shirakawa, Tokumaru and Watanabe in Hashimoto again. Tetsuya Tokumaru choose Hashimoto area for me because it’s a train station that is direct to Shinjuku without any train changes (easy for foreigner).
This was another lovely Japan trip with sunny days, great food and good friends.
The last time I hiked up Mt. Fuji was July 23, 2005. It was in that same month and year I also climbed Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier in Washington State. This trip came about over a year ago over a dinner in Sagami, Japan where I announced that we should hike Mt. Fuji. Well, it was my good friend Ryo Saito who was at that dinner that actually made this Mt. Fuji hike happen. Ryo also asked another good friend of mine and who also coordinated the last Mt. Fuji hike in 2005, Yuichiro Kanagawa.
I asked a long-time Seattle friend of mine, Mike Curry to join me on this adventure. We met Ryo and Yuichiro at the Hashimoto Train Station. Ryo drove us to the base of Mt. Fuji, Station 5 to start the Subashiri route. We started at 2:00 p.m. and got into a torrent of rain early in the hike. I think this might have been the colossal of rains during any hike I have ever done.
Sometimes a trip abroad doesn’t necessarily include sightseeing, but merely a dinner out with good friends. This was another short trip to Japan and it was actually cut short by one day because Delta cancelled my flight the day before due to winter weather at Narita airport in Japan. Because of that cancellation, I gave up great seats to the annual Sumo wrestling event in Tokyo, it would have been my third time.
By the time I landed and checked in to my hotel in the Shinjuku neighborhood it was around 8:00 p.m. I decided to check out the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku or often called Sleepless Town. This brightly lit area has many hostess clubs, love hotels, shops, restaurants and nightclubs. Walking through with blue eyes, you are quickly hounded by people in front of their establishment coercing you to come in.
If you have free time on a sunny day, I totally recommend visiting the new Sky Tree tower in Tokyo. It’s the tallest free standing tower in the world at 2,080 ft. / 634 mt.; you have 360 degree stunning views of downtown Tokyo with the beautiful Mt. Fuji in the background.
A visit to Tokyo in July is not recommended unless you are looking for a wet drenching experience. Not only was the temperature in the high 80’s, the humidity was horrendous; my shirt would get soaked by just standing around. I was staying at Tokyo Hilton in the Shinjuku neighborhood which is part of Tokyo. Shinjuko is one of the 23 city wards of Tokyo, but the name commonly refers to just the large entertainment, business and shopping area around Shinjuku Train Station; it’s the world’s busiest railway station, handling more than two million passengers every day.
The next day I went to Sagamihara for a meeting and later I met up with Norikazu Toyama, Yasuyuki Fukuhara, Chiho Ishine and my good friend Ryo Saito for dinner. We had great food, “few” drinks and a bunch of laughs. We all made a pack to climb Mt. Fuji next year; we will see if it really happens. By the time I got on the train at 11:00 p.m. I was spent; it was a combination of jet-lag, staying out to late the night before and the extreme heat. I was snoozing on the train ride back, napping on the train is typical and I was fitting right in!
My last full day I was off to Nagano by express train for another meeting. I have never been so far northwest of Tokyo before. The landscape was beautiful with numerous mountains and thick forestation.
I usually make a trip to Japan once a year and the last time I was there was January, 2010 with my wife Linna….so I was overdue. You never know when you are missed until you see your buddies again. It was great to see old acquaintances and meet new ones. This was a short trip, but….still fun as always.
There wasn’t much site seeing on this trip, but dinner out with good friends. The last three or so trips I have been staying at the Hilton in the Shinjuku area, it’s a perfect spot to be; close to Tokyo, shopping and nightlife. The mid-seventies weather was perfect for me; could have been less clouds and more sun though. I am planning to come back in the fall to do some hiking with a few friends.
Even though Tokyo is cold in January, I wanted to see my first Sumo event.
Date: July 18, 2005
Difficulty: 7 out of 10
Distance: Not sure
Elevation Gain: 5,200′ (from station 5)
Time: 7 to 10 hours
Location: Honshu, Toyko
Users Group: Hikers Only
Permits: No Permits Required for July & August
Hiking with: Yuichuro Kanagawa & Toyama Norikazu
In 2005, I decided to climb Mt. Baker, Mt. Fuji and Mt. Rainier all in July. My friend Yuichuro Kanagawa from Japan was out to Seattle earlier in the year and he too is an avid hiker. So, I kindly asked him if he would take me up Mt. Fuji if I flew to Japan. Mt. Fuji is the most recognizable landmark in Japan and is their most sacred mountain. This is not a difficult climb, in fact over 200,000 people will attempt to climb the mountain and 30% of these people are from Western countries. Most people will try to summit to see the sunrise.
We started off at station 5 around 8:00 p.m. on the Kawaguchiko route. There are 5 routes to the summit and most of the routes will start at station 5. The elevation at station 5 is around 7,000′ for all routes. When referring to stations, these are actually very large huts that can sleep 25 to 250 hikers. We stopped at station 8 (10,500′) for a 5 hour rest; for 7,000 yen ($70) you get about 18” width of floor to sleep on. Everyone sleeps shoulder to shoulder, packed like a can of sardines. Since I just flew from Seattle a day before, the hard floor and cramped spot was welcomed. We reached the summit of 12,388′ around 7:00 a.m.; the clouds and mist was so thick, there was no views to be had…there was no sunrise for us this day. After taking a bunch of pictures of each other, we decided to descend. There are a couple of one-way routes down and we chose the straight-line route that is actually bull-dozed. There is no traversing, just straight down in the 8″ to 12″ thick ash; you had to keep your gators on to keep the mountain ash out of your boots. We were leaning back and running down in a skidding formation, which took us only 2 hours to get back to station 5 where we started yesterday. After we loaded everything back in the cars, we headed for the iron rich thermal waters (hot springs) near Mt. Fuji.
Linna and I had a great time in Tokyo on this trip.
Linna and I flew to Tokyo….