For years I deployed with the military, every call was answered with a sound mind and an able hand. Then came a day where the need for war ceased, or slowed from the Nile to a babbling brook. I was left needing a purpose to inspire myself. An adventure to cool my ever present need of danger and travel. So, I conspired with my brother, among others, that I would make up my own deployments as I saw fit. I put down the rifle, however momentarily, and picked up an Ice axe. I decided then and there that the military alone would not dictate my sense of adventure and exploration, and this tale is one of many first steps out of the abyss.
Mt. Fuji. At 12, 388 feet it isn’t the highest mountain I’ve climbed but was the best climb of my life so far. Fresh off a training mission in Australia, my brother Erick and I were hungry for a win. Our plane landed in the Narita Airport, a far drive outside of Tokyo. After an expensive cab ride, we arrived in the Shinjuku part of Tokyo, Kabukichō specifically. This wonderful little neighborhood is home to over 1,000 Yakuza with 120 different enterprises under their control. It’s their red light district and we had no idea till we got there.
The morning after our arrival we were met by English speaking guides at Shinjuku Station, the busiest subway hub in the world. There, they led us to a group of vans that ferried us to the mountain, a few short hours from Tokyo’s center. Upon our arrival, the guides ran down the schedule with us. We’d climb most of the day and sleep on the side of the mountain at a small lodge owned by a local family.
The climb started off well. Nothing Erick and I haven’t handled prior. Our climbing group in New Hampshire runs through this level of difficulty all the time, so the starting day was a breeze for us. Around nightfall we reached our destination. The small hut had three rooms and a lavatory. We slept on mats with sleeping bags and our group was fed an authentic Japanese dinner that was amazing.
The next morning we woke early enough to grab the sunrise and catch another authentic local meal. We dusted off our boots and headed for the top. As the elevation gained, or breaths shortened. I was used to this from my time elsewhere, but it was a first for Erick. He handled it better than I did my first time around and after a break or two, we pushed forward to the summit. The hike was done in their off-season and technically a winter hike. This left most of the minor huts closed on our route but left the mountain nearly empty save our small band of heroes.
The top was amazing, if not a little breezy. The summit boasts the Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha Oku-no-miya, a shrine built at the highest point in Japan. A spectacular sight, it was a welcome break after our ordeal. It began to set in that over two days time, we still have only come half-way and shortly would have to make our way to the bottom before nightfall. Riding skree rock most of the way down, Erick and I rushed down as fast as our guides could keep up. Even with our massive packs, we were still faster than most of the others on our trip, a fine example of what good New Hampshire training will do for your fitness level.
By the end we were both exhausted from the climb but it was an experience that I would do a hundred times over. The culture of Japan and its people were an amazing footnote in my history. And a great leaping point for many other International Away Games that would follow.