7th to 8th February: Fuji-san from Lake Kawaguchi

I had booked a room in a ryokan at Lake Kawaguchi for a view of Mt Fuji and hired a rental car to get there.   Due to GPS battery problems, I managed to find a very roundabout route along several inappropriate motorways with several mysterious and lengthy transactions at toll booths.  Eventually, I got there.

In the next few days, I found running through my mind some lines in a 1967 song by Donovan Leitch:  “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is”.  This is a Zen allusion to illusion, perception and reality.  It is said to come from Qingyuan Weixin, a Chan monk (Chan being the Chinese precursor to Zen), so probably dates from around 1200 when Zen was arriving in Japan, or else up to 600 years earlier.

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First there is a mountain …

I arrived at Lake Kawaguchi and Fuji-san (or Mount Fuji) was visible.  Had I arrived a day or two earlier this would not have been the case.  View from the window of my room.

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Slowly, the clouds rolled in.

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… then there is no mountain …

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Fancy a swim, anyone?

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Fuji-san is a sacred mountain frequently depicted in Japanes art.  The most famous example of this is Katsushika Hokusai‘s 36 Views of Mt Fuji (colour prints, including the famous Kanagawa Wave, with Mt Fuji in the background) and One Hundred Views of Mt Fuji (black and white prints), both from the 1830s.

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Its symmetrical shape reveals Fuji-san to be a recent volcano.  It was formed only 10,000 years ago though, over the top of earlier volcanoes.  It last erupted in 1707, when volcanic ash and scoria reached as far as Tokyo (then Edo).  However, eruptions are supposed to have a 300-year cycle, so the next one could be at any time, although the volcano is currently classified as active with low probability of eruption.

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Well after the sunset by now, though the fog on the lake seems to have receded.

… then there is ….

Then at dawn on the next morning, there was Fuji-san, uncloaked by cloud.

(I didn’t know anyone called Juanita, so there didn’t seem any point to call her name.  (Refer Donovan’s lyrics … and previous captions, above ).)

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Fuji-san is the highest mountain in Japan at 12,389 feet (3,776 metres).   This makes it very close to the height of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook or Aorangi (Cloud-Piercer) which was 12,349 feet until part of the top fell away in an avalanche a few years ago.  Mount Cook is a fold mountain rather than a volcano, though.

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Around 300,000 people climb Fuji-san each year, though only in the months of July and August.  Definitely not at this time which is in winter, for non-mountaineers at least.  In most of the images, you can see a plume of snow coming off the top, so it is probably very cold and windy up there.

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I didn’t observe anyone taking up the challenge of trying to paddle through the ice.  Paddling behind a huge neck, there might be a risk of head-on collision in these things.

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Rental car with space saver spare.

I drove to Lake Motosu for an alternative view of the mountain but the clouds had closed in most of the time.  At the very moment when I turned back, at the furthest point from the rental car office, a tyre collapsed due to previous inner wall damage.  I was stuck with driving very slowly and directly on a space saver spare for the return journey.

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One last view from the roadside on the way back.

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Itinerary of Journey to Japan

I traveled in Japan in January and February 2012.

Brief Itinerary

Special Topics

Completed posts