Back in Arizona (Finally)

Hello everyone,

Sorry that I have been a little late updating my blog. I have now concluded my internship at Asahi Kasei and am back sitting at my parents house in Arizona.

The flight back was incredibly tiring. I woke up in Atsugi at my apartment at around 8am. I had to finish up some cleaning before going to the station to run a few errands. First I had to go to the bank to cash in all of the loose change that had been accumulating in my room.

I took my bike to the station and started walking to the bank with my Tupperware full of loose change that I had been accumulating over the year. Unfortunately it started pouring monsoon rains on my way to the bank so I had to sprint. I went to the third floor and went to the machine that changed all of your loose change into a bank deposit. I was really caught off guard here… I had about 8000 yen in loose change! That’s crazy… it really didn’t look like that much at all! I definitely recommend anyone in Japan with a “loose change” bowl to go to the bank and cash in.

Next I had to cancel my cell phone. Somehow the rain started to pick up even more on my way to the AU KDDI store and to make matters worse I forgot my umbrella. I slipped and fell on my ass in front of a bunch of school girls on the way. It was complete fail. Anyways after talking to the cell phone clerk, waiting 30 minutes, and paying about 30,000 yen, my cell phone was canceled. I grabbed some McDonalds take-out and went to my room by cab (my bike was still at the station so by now it is probably in the impound lot).

I had about an hour before I had to head to the station to catch my bus to Narita airport. I did some final cleaning and finished some packing. I then realized a fatal flaw in my plan… I had no cell phone to call a cab with. I had already packed my laptop it the depths on my luggage so I couldn’t use Skype. I started panicking and then decided to go outside to try to find a payphone. After running around the block (or swimming through the 100% humidity air) I was able to find a payphone at the convenient store. I called a cab and then sprinted back to my apartment. At this point I felt sweaty, hot, and like death.

After taking the cab to the station and then catching a two hour bus I was at the airport. I had two HUGE bags that I needed to shuttle around. After mixing up the terminals, catching the bust to the right terminal I was ready to check in. Since I had two bags and two carry-ons I had to do something very unfortunate… I had to throw away my Mt. Fuji stick. It was either that or pay $150 for another checked bag. I was already over my limit for spending and had to conserve money so regrettably I had to throw it away. I will always remember (by pictures and memories) that I climbed Mt. Fuji so in the end it is ok… still kind of a bummer though.

Going through security I had another problem. For some reason in the midst of my packing I had packed a small bottle of sake in one of my carry-ons. Why I did this is beyond me, but security would not allow it. It was a decent bottle of sake so I decided to step outside of the airport and have at least a taste of it (no open container laws in Japan). It was good although I would have liked to savor it a little more.

Finally after getting through security and boarding my flight I was on my way back to America. It was really saddening in a way. I really grew to like Japan so getting on the plane was a little emotional. The flight itself was pretty uneventful. They showed god awful movies on the entertainment but all in all the flight was just long as hell.

I arrived in San Francisco and had to recheck my baggage. It turns out I missed my connection from San Francisco to Austin so I had to fly to Denver (2 hours), live through a 4 hour layover, and then fly to Austin (2 hours). In the end I got to Austin at 11pm (CST) on Friday. My parents had made a reservation at the airport hotel so I was able to have a decent bed to stay in (I had been away for a little over 35 hours). After ordering a nice American pizza I passed out.

The flight the next day to Tucson (where my parents live) was also uneventful. I flew to Dallas and then to Tucson. My parents picked me up at the airport and then we went out to eat at Applebees. I was reminded about how cheap beer was in America. A tall glass of beer (about 1.4 pints) was only $3.50 (about 350 yen). This was awesome considering in Japan a pint was about $10 (1000 yen).

It feels weird to be back in America. I am experiencing a little bit of reverse culture shock. Whenever I throw away a can or bottle I feel taboo placing it in the trash can with everything else. I feel the service here is about 10 folds worse than Japan (although airport service isn’t really a good benchmark). I do enjoy being able to speak English to everyone around and actually being able to read signs. My parents’ house is beautiful and I am enjoying the nice landscape of mountains and the nice refreshing pool.

To be truthful the trip to Japan not only changed me as a person, but also had an immense effect on my career goals. I think at this point it is a certain fact that I will return to Japan as a worker. I am a little anxious to get back to school and finish my degree so I can return to the land that treated me so well. I will still continue to study Japanese in college (taking classes) and also keep in touch with all of the friends that I met over the year. I will always look back at the experience with warm and fond memories. It was the first time I truly went abroad and I was given a taste of the international community; a taste that I will undoubtedly experience again.

I still have a few stories to write about my travels right before leaving Japan. Since I have essentially nothing to do for a week before school starts I will take my time with that. I will also have to keep updating MIXI in Japanese to stay sharp. It will be nice to be able to buy shoes in my size and also extra tall clothes. For now enjoy these pictures that I took of my parents house:

I will write more of my thoughts later as I become more bored 🙂

Mount Fuji – Climbing Reflections

So last weekend I climbed Mt. Fuji with my dad. I kind of did it on whim really. I figured I came all the way to Japan, could see Mt. Fuji from work, so it would

We started from the Kawaguchi 5th Station and planned on climbing the Yoshida trail during the night so we could watch the sunrise from Mt Fuji. After taking a two and a half hour bus ride from Shinjuku to the 5th Station we geared up. After buying walking sticks and suiting up we started climbing. It was pitch black so we equipped the lights that we had brought.

A small note on the lights. I brought a headlight that used a regular light bulb and by dad brought a LED one. The LED one was the better choice as mine just seemed to to be too dim

From the 5th to the 6th station we seemed to go up a zigzag type pattern for quite some time. It seemed to go pretty fast but as I later found out on the climb down it was actually a pretty big distance. The terrain wasn’t terrible here and the rate of ascent was moderate. Every now and then we stopped to take a sip of water but it really wasn’t terrible. The sixth station seemed to be way up there though. We kept climbing and climbing but the light of the sixth station for some reason didn’t seem to be getting closer. Finally we reached it.

We got our walking stick stamped at the station and rested up a little bit. We were so oblivious with what was to come. From the 6th station to the 7th station it was terrible. The terrain was absolutely horrific. Mt. Fuji is a volcano so there are a lot of volcanic rocks. I am really skeptical to call this section hiking… it was more mountain climbing. The ascent was really sudden and very treacherous. The walking stick that I bought really got in the way here. I needed to use my hand to grab rocks to hoist myself up. It was really like boulder hopping. Still somehow after a couple hours (which seemed like an eternity) we managed to get to the 7th station. After the 7th station was more boulder hopping.

At this point the altitude change really started to get to my father and me. We could only walk very short distances without stopping for air. At one of the 7th stations we got some oxygen which didn’t really seem to help me too much. Anyways we eventually reached the first 8th station. It seemed like it took forever though. It was more boulder hopping off sharp, steep, and treacherous volcanic rock.

A few days before we started climbing I made a reservation at one of the 8th stations on a whim. I figured that we got to the 8th station too late, but after asking the clerk it turns out that we were able to stay. Thank god for this. We were so tired, exhausted, and fatigued. After resting a few hours at the station we had enough energy to chug up to the top. We didn’t reach the summit in the time for the sunrise but it actually worked in our favor. From the 8th station we could see the sunrise while from the summit there were clouds obscuring the view. I took some really nice pictures.

From the 8th station to the summit was mixed terrain. Some of it was boulder hopping (more towards the summit), but a lot of it was walking on narrow paths of volcanic gravel. This proved very hard as sometimes the gravel would slip up under your feet leaving you on your ass. It was hard to take care of all the factors at the same time.

Finally after what seemed like hours and hours we made it to the top at roughly 8am. It was a cold desolate place. The wind was blowing really hard and it was very very cold. We wanted to stay there as little as possible. After taking a few pictures we started our descent.

The descent took just about as long as the ascent. There was snow on the “special” descent course so we were forced to go back the way we came. I don’t see how some people did it, they were just Mario hopping down the mountain. I was mortified that I would slip and break a leg or sprain an ankle… I couldn’t imagine what I would have done if I did do that though. It seemed like it took FOREVER to go down. More so than it took going up. It was very hard. I guess going up we were excited (for the majority) about getting to the top, but hiking down was so miserable.

After falling on my ass a couple of times and cautiously going down the mountain we made it to the bottom of the mountain. We were dead. We hadn’t showered or had a decent night sleep in over a day. Zombie would be the right word to describe me. After catching a bus to Kawaguchiko train station, taking about four transfers, we ended up in Hon-Atsugi. Taking a Taxi back to my apartment we both passed out after taking a nice relaxing shower.

The muscleache could be felt for days afterwards. Everything… legs, arms, butt (from the falling). Looking back at it, it was definitely the ultimate workout. I can say now (some 3 weeks after the fact) that I am glad I did it once… but there is no way in hell I would go again. It was an experience and it feels good now to say that I did it. I would reccomend anyone who lives in Japan to go. However, here are a few words of advice.

This is what I brought to Fuji:

  • LED Hand Light
  • Light bulb Head Light
  • 2.25 liters of water
  • Sweater
  • Snow Cap
  • Scarf
  • Onigiri/Snacks
  • Tennis Shoes
  • Camera

Looking back, it was very chilly and I could have done better with a bit warmer clothes. I am very resistant to the cold so it worked out fine, but a pair of gloves or a warmer sweater would have worked.

If I had to do it again (which I don’t see in the near future), I would do it as follows (in order)

  • Make a reservation at a mountain hut on the 8th station
  • Start climbing early afternoon
  • Reach the hotel in the evening (7/8ish)
  • Spend the night at the hotel (start climbing again at 2/3ish)
  • Reach the summit to watch the sunrise
  • Descend the mountain not tired

Like I said I don’t really foresee myself doing this again. The terrain was really rough and to be honest I believe there are many other superior hiking trails in Japan. I am glad I did it once though and it was a really good experience. I suggest everyone does it at least once. It kind of has a “wow factor” to it. You can say you climbed Mt. Fuji and even Japanese people are surprised.

Google Pictures