Last weekend (November 9 and 10), I made a trip with my American friends, Michelle, Darrin, and Teresa, and six other foreign people living in Japan (two from China and four from Taiwan) to Shizuoka Prefecture to visit Mt. Fuji and the surrounding area. Thanks to Michelle’s connections, we were able to participate in this lovely, all-expenses-paid trip in exchange for offering feedback about the accessibility of Mt. Fuji and the surrounding area for foreign visitors at the end of our stay. Considering the fact that the total cost of the weekend (travel, accommodation, and food) was probably well over $300 each, this was an awesome opportunity for us. Moreover, the fact that we were on a guided “supporter” trial tour, meant that our entire weekend was planned out, and we were taken to some of the most beautiful, culturally significant, and delicious places that the area has to offer.
We met at Nagoya Station at 9:30am on Saturday morning, and after a quick round of introductions with the other travelers and our guides, we had coffee in a cafe in that station to discuss the itinerary, and then boarded at Shinkansen (bullet train) to Shizuoka Prefecture.
Here’s our itinerary for the trip (!):
After arriving at the Fujinomiya station, we took taxis up to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji. (It was quite a long drive and would have cost at least $90 if we had been paying for it ourselves.) The scenery as we were driving up to the mountain was gorgeous. The higher we drove, the more autumn-like the trees became until we reached an altitude that seemed quite like winter.
Here is our entire group, about the climb from the 5th station to the 6th station (about a 30-minute climb). It’s off-season right now, so you can’t go all the way to the top of the mountain; it was actually already very cold where we were. The fact that it was off-season was actually quite nice, though, because it was not very crowded.
After out brief bout of climbing, we reloaded into the taxis and went to visit a nearby lake and waterfalls. The view of Mt. Fuji from the shore of Lake Tanuki was absolutely unreal. I almost enjoyed getting to see the mountain from there more than actually climbing it, I think.
After a quick stop at the hotel to drop off our luggage, we went to a locally famous unagi “eel” restaurant for dinner.
Actually, throughout the entire weekend, the guides and other travelers continually referred to the four of us as “Team America,” which I found to be both funny and endearing. It’s easy to forget sometimes that when I’m in Japan, I am representing an entire nationality when people interact with me because I’m foreign and many Japanese people have not met very many Americans before. This weekend, however, I was continually reminded of my identity as an American and was being asked to evaluate the travel experience from a specifically foreign-tourist perspective, which added another level of self-reflexivity.
Michelle explains the ema (wooden prayer plaques):
Because we were at the shrine on the closest Sunday to November 15th which is an annual day when children ages 3, 5, and 7 visit shrines in Japan, there were a bunch of adorable children:
When the grandma saw that we were watching them, she brought the baby closer and introduced him to us. So cute.
After Sengen Shrine, we went to a local sake brewery and had a tour of the facilities and even got to do a small tasting! Unsurprisingly, I didn’t understand much of the explanation about the brewing techniques, but it was still really neat to see the machinery.
We even made the local Shizuoka newspaper on Sunday morning!
Even though I was still a bit sick with a cold, the entire trip was great fun, and I’d be happy to go back to Mt. Fuji anytime! Also, if I ever get a chance to camp on the shores of Lake Tanuki, I’ll definitely do it. Seriously, that place was unreal.