But before the commercial break, I left myself on top of a summit, as day was breaking. I have since come to learn that this should have been a very spiritual and significant moment, and if I have failed to recognize this as such, there must be something blocking me from recognizing this. At least, this is some free guru-ish advice given to me. Yeah. I'll process that.
For the summit of Mt Fuji was less of an individual spiritual awakening and more of a reaffirmation that I am in the most populated city-area of the world. Here is a picture of everyone else seeking this spiritual moment at the same time…
And while I did stay for a little while to look at the crater inside the mountain (apparently it *is* a live volcano, even though the last eruption was more than 200 years ago) and ogle at the crowds, I wanted to get down the mountain soon.
First of all, I had the man at the top brand my walking stick-- it's a Fuji tradition to buy a stick at the bottom of the hill and get it branded at each (or at least most) of the stations along the way. The top-most part will give you TWO brands, and now I have a very nice souvenir with official "stamps" that you can only get at the top of the mountain. Collect 'em all!
The way down is tedious and overwhelmingly boring. There are separate trails for descent and ascent for some reason, and the descent takes you along monotonous switchbacks of crumbly dust and small pebbles, making each step both full of momentum and potential hazard. Good thing I had my walking stick…
The heat of the day began to be very oppressive-- and while I wore all of the four or so layers I trucked with me while it was early and dark, I barely was able to start down the mountain without shedding nearly everything.
By the time i came down, I was dusty, sweaty, and exhausted-- running on pure determination and periodic adrenaline. Once again I was thankful for traveling on my own, since I could go at my own pace. If I needed the excuse, i could stop and wait for others or strike up an occasional conversation with the many foreigners doing the same thing, but there was nothing tying me down as I hurried on my way.
I made it back to Kawaguchiko with no problems, and even managed to change into yet another set of clothes that I knew would be needed after climbing a mountain in Japanese summer weather. I did have to wait a while for a public bus, since at this time there was a bottle-neck of people waiting (apparently people spread themselves out during the nighttime arrivals, but everyone is "done" with the mountain at the same time.)
I even had time in Kawaguchiko for a onsen (public spa) and nice meal before catching my return trip to Tokyo! Thankfully, I could sleep on the bus (I probably couldn't keep myself up if I tried!) and I tumbled into my apartment as dinnertime was ending, a perfect time of evening… except for the fact that I had to work the very next day, as students would arrive eager to be taught.
Goodnight, Fuji! It was swell, but I'm not sure I'll ever see you again… Maybe when the day is clear and the sun is bright, you'll be in the distance and we'll remember the good times.