Monday, August 25, 2008

Formidable Mt Fuji

Hey all,

This is the email I just sent my family about my weekend on Mt Fuji.... minus a few expletives. There's no pictures because, well, it'll become clear soon.

Kiaora Whanau!!!

I made it off Fuji san alive!! By the grace of God, Oh my God!!! OMFG Fuji threw her toys, not quite out of the crater but the weather was enough for me be really really really scared.

We had a 7 hour bus ride from Toyama Station (the central meeting point, almost always for Toyama JETs) to Station 5, Mt Fuji, our starting point. Where we waited for a couple of hours to see the sunset... what friggin sunset, there's too much fog!!! "A" (who's done it before) assures us the we will be above the clouds in no time and that it will be clear skies all the way to the top from there. We all believed him because he actually believed himself. For about 2/3 of the way up we could see patches of sky and stars etc and we thought that "A" was right. Until we got to one of the stations further up and the wind picked up and I started getting scared and angry. Basically the weather turned nasty which induced panic attacks because we were climbing at night through fog with wind and my headlight was reflecting off the water, I could only see less than a metre in front of my darn face. But I ended up climbing that stretch with 5 others who totally got me through. They were great!!! I was climbing most of the way with "W" and "A" then we were joined by "R", "M" and "E". After my second panic attack "R"kept saying you're grand pet your absolutely grand we're here don't worry' and "M" and "E" put me between them (despite wanting to climb together because they are married) and kept up with the encouragement and stuff. It was just really fantastic. All 6 of us nearly ended up with hypothermia after we summitted at 0130 and the small shops at the top didn't open until 0330. But we all survived. Then I had another panic attack about going down in the wind and fog. The wind was horizontal the rain was horizontal, I am pretty sure the wind was gale force and I was shit scared dig.

On the way down 14 of us started down together and we all helped each other down. I just wanted to get off that f***ing mountain so when I realised that there was compacted scoria on the edges of the road as opposed to loose scoria in the middle and that I could walk faster there, I hightailed it down to the bottom followed (largely) by "KR" who treated it as a game to keep with my pace (the Aucklander on a mission speed usually accompanied by 'I can smell food get me to the food asap').

18 of us summitted yesterday, 4 didn't make it because they either got too cold or it was too dangerous. We were stupid to do it but once you are past the point of no return you just have to keep going right. We climbed up there with a good couple of thousand Japanese and damn it even if we didn't make it to the top we gave it our all. Fuji freaking beat the poo out of us and I am proud of everyone who at least tried. If you can make it to the top of FujiSan in bad weather (or even make it past Station 7) then you deserve a huge medal!

She's a beast and a half when she's angry and we climbed her in third worst scenario (2nd being snow and 3rd being eruption). Big respect to Mount Fuji and I am never ever underestimating a mountain again!

My legs hurt and my back hurts a little but I think the ice I put on my knees before I went to bed last night has helped them.

Darn it, Japan, you keep giving me amazing experiences!!

Umm I think that's it from me for now. My brain is fried from Fuji and it still thinks I'm on the darn mountain. I went in search of hot coffee this morning only to realise that it was iced coffee that I needed... hehehe. It was bloomin' -12 degrees celcius including wind chill on that mountain yesterday morning so I'm not surprised my brain is still thinking coldness.

I love you all and I am glad to be alive, OMG imagine if I had got hypothermia and died... shit I need to stop thinking about that because I didn't and I survived Fuji in bad weather!


No pictures because not enough were taken, hardly any in fact. I will look through it again and possibly if there's some good ones I will put them up.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Above are some photos of Japan and me in Japan and, of course, mini max the monkey. They're of Mt Tate, the third holiest mountain in Japan; the Takaoka Daibutsu and my dear friend Kung Fu Panda.

If you haven't read yesterday's post please do!

Tough Topic...

Dear All,

To fully understand the Japanese psyche you must first understand where they have been historically and the place they want to hold in this world.

As England and the West celebrates VJ Day, Japan has its festival of the dead, Obon. And it's through no fault of their own that Obon falls when it does, it just happened that surrender happened when the spirits of the ancestors were believed to be returning.

I asked the vice principal of one of the elementary schools that I teach at about Obon today because I wanted to hear it from the perspective of someone not from my generation. Talking about it made her cry and in the process made me cry. I wonder, nay, realise that anything connected with World War II touches a nerve here. It's intense, it's difficult but I think it's important for me, as an alien in their world, from a military background, to understand how these people think and the strength of feeling here about that war and indeed about war in general.

On VJ day, we, the west, won everything; they, Japan, lost everything. We won freedom and the chance to live in a world free from contstraints or fears, we gained a sense of infallibility and power. Japan is acutely aware of its fallibility and of it's mistakes, misjudgements, past, whatever you want to call it and its reputation. The people here want to remedy that and restore their reputation in the world. It's a country that wants to forget but can't. We claim to not want to forget but do. It's a strange kind of opposite that I hope I will one day understand.

To my Chinese and Korean friends. You get angry because Japan does not teach the war and its atrocities and stuff that would rather be forgotten in its schools. I think now I see the reasons for it not teaching them. It hurts, it hurts like nothing I can imagine. It brought a grown woman, who is incredibly professional and composed usually, to tears in the staff room. I wouldn't want to teach it either. As we all know too well, I cry like a baby when I think about the reasons for certain events that occurred in said war, right now my essay about the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki that I wrote for Pols 308 last year is all too fresh in my mind and the tears I shed writing that thing may come down on my polka dot skirt at anytime, its haunting me big time today!

I feel like God, the universe, fate, whatever you might call it, has a plan for me in this country (being Japan if you didn't already work it out) and it's causing me to feel, really feel, the Western impact on this beautiful place.... and I'm not entirely sure that I like it. The Japanese are such a lovely people and I really hope that certain elements of the Western psyche don't find their way in.

Let us not forget what went on 63 years ago this month. Let's never let it happen again either.
The day we let it happen again is that day that humanity puts itself to shame.

I never want to forget what I learned this morning. I never want to lose hope in humanity and I sure as heck don't want to not learn while I am here.

The day I cease to learn from the people who have gone before me is the day I die.

I pray that these people continue to educate me about themselves and about the world at large.

I hope all are good back home and around the world and that somehow some way something that I've just said sinks in because it's moments like that of this morning that are why I came to Japan in the first place.

Peace, Love and Penguins!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Birthday!

Hi All!!!

I shall have to write more when I get the internet at home or when I have wireless internet at the hotel I am staying at in nara next week. But in the meantime....

I am still in stage 1 culture shock, everything is going well and I love Japan.... euphoria!

Arrived last wednesday into Takaoka and have been going non-stop since. Everyone is wonderful and the town is really nice.

Yesterday was my birthday and in true Raewyn fashion I decided to let a few people know and see what happens.... beer garden.... mentioned its's my birthday... uhoh.... next thing, one of the returning JETs starts off a happy birthday song and about 200 Japanese people get in on the action too... how embarrassing but considering that the chuhai at the beer garden was bad and the food was also bad it might just have made my night, that and the girls deciding that Karaoke was in order.

So yeah, loving Japan and about to go to Kanazawa for the day so better trot off.

Ciao for now!!!