Climbing Mount Fuji – Japan’s Highest Peak: Part 2
Goraikō – The Coming of the Light
A breath-taking moment when time stands still and worldly cares are washed away. The awe-inspiring sunrise that can be seen from only one very special place – the summit of Mount Fuji.
(Click here to read Part 1 of this article.)
Day 2 – From Our Mountain Hut Lodgings to the Summit
Although we did technically spend the night in a mountain hut, it’s 2:00 in the morning when we set off for the summit, so it wasn’t much of a night’s sleep. This would normally be considered quite a late time to set off but since our hut, the Goraikō-kan, is the nearest one to the top of the mountain, we don’t have quite as far to climb.
Further down the mountain, a long procession of climbers marches towards to the top, headlamps glowing in the dark, all intent on witnessing the rising of the sun. Fuji’s climbing trails are at their most congested in the middle of the night.
Expecting the trails to be crowded, we’ve left ourselves plenty of time. But even so, we’re surprised at just how many climbers there are. We climb without speaking, dust swirling up from the trail, for around two and a half hours, overtaking a number of what appear to be tour groups. At last we reach the torii archway just below the summit. Passing under the archway, we’re finally at the top!
Faces towards the rising sun, all earthly cares are washed away
The Yoshida Trail reaches the summit on the east side of the mountain, offering a commanding view of the sunrise. It’s cold now that we’ve stopped and we rub our hands to try and keep them warm as we wait for around an hour. The eastern skies slowly begin to take on a reddish hue. Then the sun appears from behind a layer of clouds and a dazzling light hits our eyes. Spontaneous cries of joy erupt from here and there in the crowd. Other climbers stand with their palms pressed together in prayer. Overwhelmed by a sense of the sublime, I too feel an urge to pray.
Our surroundings become lighter and morning reveals a magnificent sea of clouds laid out below us. I feel as if I’m walking on air! As the sun climbs higher and the day gets brighter we can see out over the distant mountains. If you still have the strength, it’s definitely worth walking around the perimeter of the crater. When we get around to the western side of the crater, we’re rewarded with the wonderful sight of the ‘shadow Fuji’, the graceful contours of the mountain clearly outlined on the landscape below (photo in Part 1 of this article).
After walking about 30 minutes around the rim of the crater we come to a fortress-like structure on top of the rocks. This is the former Mt Fuji Weather Station at Kengamine, the highest point on the mountain. We’ve finally made it to the highest point in Japan!
Then, after walking around the crater for about an hour and a half, we come back to the head of the Yoshida Trail.
Time to bid farewell to this special world.
It’s 8:00 in the morning and time to start heading down the mountain. We return down a different path from the one we came up, this one a series of giant S-bends snaking their way down the mountain. We proceed down the mountain in silence. Progress is quick but descending is very hard on the legs. I keep feeling as if my knees will give way under me.
Thoughts swirl around in my head as I walk in silence – an inner dialogue begins. Climbing Mt Fuji seems somehow like a metaphor for life; a process of setting goals and achieving them, only to realise there’s still more to be done!
Trudging slowly down the mountain, one foot in front of the other, it takes us about three hours to arrive safely back at Fuji Subaru 5th Station.
(Click here to read Part 1 of this article.)
* This report is from September 2012. Web: https://www.goraikoukan.jp/en/
Kengamine Peak – Mt Fuji’’s highest point.
Chiho Kuriyama is a freelance writer and editor. Her articles cover a range of fields, from country living to the outdoors and snow sports.
Judy Evans is a high school teacher of English and Japanese, and a Japanese-English translator. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese and Art History and has studied production horticulture and landscape design. Judy has a keen interest in the internet environment and has administered websites for a number of organisations. She lives on a small farm in rural New Zealand and is a frequent visitor to Japan.
Photographer Yūji Kaneko specialises in photographing outdoor sports – mountain and trail running in the summer, and skiing and snowboarding in the winter. He also photographs the occasional tea ceremony.