Summiting Mt. Fuji

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With my blank wooden stick in hand; I began the morning of 10 Jul to hike one of the most famous mountains in the world. Little did I know at the start of the trip, that it would turn out to be MUCH more of a challenging hike than I anticipated!

Catching a branded stamp on my hiking stick at each of the way stations up the mountain, I soon met a group of Scottish siblings, Mike, Mark & Mary, who became my companions through the journey to the summit. They were doing a group traveling trip to Japan before their sister, Mary, moved to London to finish her post-doc in geology (she obviously picked climbing Mt. Fuji for the boys!). Along the way we encountered a group of monks singing as they slowly climbed the mountain, people sucking down oxygen and a wishing shrine that you stuck coins into for good luck (at this point we are praying for the top!).

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We reached the summit in record time! 4 hrs up, 2 down – and I definitely felt the lack of rest along the way. It took all I had to keep going towards the top – I probably could have stopped to grab some oxygen along the way as well!

After the 6 hour hike, I caught a bus to the neighboring town of Kawaguchi. It is a small lake town that is the closest place to stay for travelers looking to summit Fuji. I highly recommend staying a least one night, post-hike. There are plenty of Onsen’s (Japanese hot springs) and an occasional cloudless view of the timeless mountain known as Mt. Fuji.

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NOTE If you are trying to do it: Personal blogs were especially helpful when figuring out what to do. If you are looking for the same, you should know:

*You DO NOT need to do a tour. The path is well marked and it is easy to find fellow trekker’s along the way. However, if you are planning on doing the rest itinerary (start in the evening, hike for a few hrs, rest and then get up at 2am to hike the rest of the way) it might be easier to go through a companies simply because they book the accommodations for you (however much cheaper to just go it alone)

*Prices get more expensive the higher you go! (which is slightly reasonable since it’s difficult to get the stuff up there) So bring your own or stock up on water/food for your pack

*It’s cold up top! Dress/bring appropriately

*Pace! I speed walked it up which caused me to nearly hyperventilate by the time I reached the top.

*Plan! The hiking season is only Jul-Aug. So plan your trip ahead of time. The trail is less crowded during the day as travelers tend to do the sunrise hike – so if you do go at night, plan on long lines once you have reached the top!

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Tokyo in 3 days

First impressions: Japan is vastly different from Korea. Everything down to the Food, history, and culture – Japan is an extremely rich and diverse place to explore. Plus the people are painstakingly polite & nice!

You could live in Tokyo and still not see it all. I attempted to hit the highlights in just a few days – if you have just a short stop in the vibrant city the below are a MUST.

Kabuki

Every seen those pictures of Japanese people with painted faces and crazy expressions? (kind of like what you see below)? Well that is Kabuki – best described as a moving piece of art. Began in the late 1800’s, the performance is rich in history and tradition (as is all of Japan). Kabuki has several sub-sections and types; key to the act of the play is the slow movements and exaggerated emotions, often expressed through its dramatic make-up techniques.

Kabuki is ONLY performed by a certain set of families. As you progress through the ranks you adopt different names according to your age and ability. These actors are just that – actors; no females play in the performance (in fact some male actors specialize in female roles).  The show that you pay for (which was about 3000 yen) is typically 3-4 hours long of short – to long skits involving historical pieces, fables and fight scenes.

Asakusa

I would argue that Asakusa is the best place to visit in Tokyo. It is the ‘old’ part of the city; historical and still preserved, Asakusa gives you a wonder of food, shopping and temples to explore in old fashioned style.

After going there make sure to hit up Shibuya crossing which is the perfect place to showcase exactly how many people live in this large city

Sushi — Do I really have to say it?

If you are one of those terrible people that gets squimish at the thought of raw fish — get over it, close your eyes and dive into the wonderful yummy world of sushi. (and if you are really tried, there’s always noodles, which you can conveniently order out of a vending machine…brilliant!)

Of course there are a lot more areas to hit (try Skytree for the tallest bldg. in the world, Roppongi for the nightlife and the assortment of temples, palaces and gardens). All in all Tokyo is a wonder to explore!