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Spotlight on Summer Intern: Climbing Mt. Fuji


The Time Mount Fuji Almost Crushed Me

This past weekend, I climbed Mount Fuji. Yes, my legs are still in pain (the elevator has been my best friend for the past couple days) and yes, my feet are all covered in blisters. But was it worth it? The answer is an easy yes. The view at the summit was easily the most stunning, breathtaking landscape I have seen during my entire summer in Tokyo. I felt like I was on top of the world.

The process of getting there was not as dreamy. My team and I started at the 5th station, super eager and giddy. Little did we know how rough and challenging the eight hours in front of us were going to be. I hadn’t really packed any hiking gear when I flew to Tokyo – the most sporty things I brought were my Nike Free Runners and a rain jacket. Luckily, I had received a TELL exercise shirt the week prior to the hike. On top of that, I had completely embraced summer life and was seriously out of shape; my “workouts” had been reduced to brisk 30-minute strolls to Shibuya.

The first two hours were not so bad aside from the excruciating heat and growing numbness in my calves. I had already stripped down to a tank, but I was constantly shocked by the number of layers passing hikers wore. The further up we hiked, the greater the incline; with my sneakers, I felt like I was stepping into quicksand and thankfully, I only slipped and ate dirt a handful of times.

Once the sun came down, the temperature dropped precipitously. I pulled out all five layers I had brought, plus gloves and a beanie, but I felt as if my face was slowly freezing off and my teeth could not stop chattering. The only thing that kept me moving was the promise of warmth and hot curry in the hut where we would be spending the night. The hut was a bit past the 8th station, and a huge wave of relief struck me once we arrived. The sleeping arrangement was a bit odd, to be generous. You literally are sleeping with strangers. Imagine one huge bunk bed that goes from wall to wall, with sleeping spaces already marked out. You are separated from your sleeping neighbor by mere millimeters. Luckily, my friend was on my right, but the guy to my left was a complete rando. He snored like no other and kept kneeing me in his sleep the entire night. I think I got maybe 20 minutes of sleep. When I did wake up to the blaring voice of the hut owner (he woke everyone up around 2 am to catch the sunrise), my head was throbbing. I was completely parched and felt so nauseous – altitude sickness had hit. I had read about it in my very limited Fuji preparation, but I never imagined it would be that intense.

Sleep-deprived and experiencing the worst migraine of my life, I strapped on my headlamp and queued up for the march to the summit. There were so many people hiking up that it felt like waiting for a ride at Disneyland – looking down at the path behind me, the number of head lights I could see in my vicinity indicated more than 1,000 hikers were behind me. We made it to the summit five minutes before sunrise, dashed to the most isolated rock we could find, and peacefully watched the sun peek out from behind pink cotton-candy clouds. It happened in less than a minute, but I cannot stress how magnificent and awe-inspiring it was – no pictures or words can really do it justice. Then, we planted ourselves in one of the many food huts on the summit and rewarded ourselves by pigging out on ramen, oden, sweet red bean soup, and warm beverages. Then the trek down…sigh.

Would I climb it again? There’s an old Japanese saying: “If you come to Japan and don’t climb Mt. Fuji, you’re a fool; but if you climb it more than once, you’re an even bigger fool.” So I think my answer should be no, but at the same time, it’s too soon to tell. I definitely recommend everyone to hike Fuji at least once in their lifetime. Not only will you create strong bonds with the friends you hike with (there’s no bonding experience like being stuck on a mountain for 24 hours together), but it is extremely self-rewarding and gratifying. To me, it provided a much-needed reminder how capable my mind and body can be when I really want to accomplish something. It’s also refreshing to escape the chaotic and overwhelming nature of Tokyo. Of course, there were moments I felt as if my legs were going to fall off – I really just wanted to give up and collapse into the fetal position on the path. But what would that have accomplished? Aside from the judgements of my hiking buddies and being covered in dirt, I would have gained nothing and I still would have been stuck on Fuji. That was the kind of mindset that really motivated me to keep moving.

I tend to get a tad restless at work, sitting at a desk for an extended period of time. But following my painful trek up Mount Fuji, I fully embraced this comfortable and sedentary office setup. Donor gifts for the Connoisseurs’ Auction have started coming in, which is extremely exciting and rewarding! All the preparation Nicole and I had made earlier in the summer is really paying off. Our other event, Talkie Walkie which raises awareness for World Suicide Prevention Day, is also kicking off. We now have five walks throughout Japan! I have also been revamping the new auction site as well as increasing visibility of the Talkie Walkie site. It is disappointing that I won’t be around to see the events take place and the manifestation of my work, but I already know they’ll both be amazing. I also helped Yukari process receipts for the year; I didn’t realize how strict the protocols for maintaining NPO status were. And that’s all my updates for today! Only two more weeks at TELL 🙁