Oniko's Travel Diary:|
The Three Mountains
(August 5-31, 1998)
Thursday August 20th, 1998
I got up around seven this morning so I could walk around a bit before it was time to check out of the hotel; I don't know when I'll be visiting Mishima again, so this was the time to explore it.
The streets in the portion of Mishima I'm in are laid out in a diamond pattern for some reason, which made it a little hard to keep track of where I was in relation to the hotel. I walked to a temple I saw last night to get a better look at it. It was closed, and the main building itself was having some repair work done, but it had a small graveyard and pond area, and was nice and quiet.
I followed some backstreets in the general direction of the rail station, and found a street that had one long coy pond running beside it for about two-hundred feet. I walked along it, viewing the big fishes swimming lazily by me (expecting to get fed, I'll bet). The road itself is constructed of decorative brick, instead of asphalt; and the houses on either side of the street have decorative gates and plants along it, so the entire walk was pretty enjoyable.
At the end of the street, I turned right to head back to the street my hotel was on... and this turn took me past a large park, full of bamboo, small creeks and ponds with beautiful small bridges, and large rocks that had been smoothed down to serve as benches. A bamboo fence created a separation between the park and the road next to it, giving the park a nice private feel as if it was miles away from any town.
But it was getting up to the ten o'clock check-out time at my hotel, so I picked up a breakfast at a local bakery, then got my stuff together, checked out, and headed back to the station to start what would have to be an interesting day... for today, I intended to climb Mount Fuji -- ready or not.
I got as close to Fuji as the trains would take me, traveling from Mishima to a city called Numazu, and from there to the town of Gotemba. From Gotemba, there was only two ways to reach Fuji; on foot, or by bus. I opted for bus... maybe on the next trip I'll walk, when I have a better idea of where to walk to from the rail station. It took some time to figure out the bus schedules, but once I caught on it was clear that I had at least an hour before the right bus would arrive.
During that hour I considered how to handle one small problem... what to do with all the stuff I was carrying. I didn't know how much time it would take me to climb Fuji, and, frankly, I didn't want to carry all my stuff up with me. Even if I reached the top today and got back down, I'd be exhausted... besides, from what I was hearing from some of the other tourists it was sounding like I might be spending the night on the mountain. One option was to get a hotel room for the night, and leave my stuff there; but getting a hotel room for just my bags seemed silly. Luckily, I'm getting better at reading kanji.
You see, there are coin lockers at the Gotemba bus station... unusual ones. It took a while for me to fully understand what the instructions were saying, but it looked like they were good for up to three days, where most coin lockers in Japan are emptied every night. I asked at least three people, but I couldn't explain myself or understand them well enough to be 100% sure I had translated the information right; there were no hotels in the immediate area, however, and I sure as hell wasn't going to tote all my junk up a mountain, so I took a chance and put the majority of my stuff in the coin locker.
Having done that, I explored the area a little and got a snack, then waited for the bus. It came, I got on, and around 2:30 in the afternoon -- after a fourty-five minute ride -- I was dropped off at a small shopping/restaurant area a little up the side of Mount Fuji (I later found out this area was refered to as "station #5", mainly because, had I started from the base of the mountain, it would have been about the fifth decent place to stop on the climb). I purchased a walking stick (as did most of the climbers), grabbed an extra large container of water, and started off on the trail leading up into the forest area above the station.
|Walking sticks, between 4-5 feet tall, are traditional for all religious pilgrimages. These sometimes have a bell attached, so guardian spirits will be able to keep track of the pilgrims. Modern pilgrims don't seem to carry these for long journeys much -- they can be a hassle on the trains -- but for short journeys, like climbing a single mountain, the sticks are still popular.|
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