Alive and well, and living in Tokyo ...

Reports from Essien Leroy, Our Man in Tokyo ...
July / August 2000

Day One in Tokyo

Alive and well
and living in Tokyo


Climbing Mount Fuji
or How to kill a weekend

Of crime and Punishment

Tales of Two Cities

Japanese Inventions

Keeping up with the Jones

Essien's Reaction to the Web Site

Out of Body Experience

It all depends

The Girls of Summer

An old Chinese saying

Climbing Mount Fuji or How to kill a weekend

Last Wednesday my workmate Kim suggested that I take a trip to the top of Mt. Fuji with several of the technology guys, sort of a bonding trip. Climbing Mt. Fuji is a pilgrimage that the Japanese aspire to take at least once in their life time and several diehards will do it more than once. The later is looked on as foolish by Kim's wife. The Japanese saying is that to climb Mt. Fuji once is an adventure and a pilgrimage, but twice is just plain foolish. Kim was on his second trip, Roger, the ex-marine, was on his third climb, the other four members of the expedition and my self were on our first.

Let's start from the start. Thursday night I went to sleep at 10:00 PM and had a good sleep woke up at 8:00, which is great because ever since I got to Tokyo I've been waking up at 5:30 with the sun rise, hate that.

Friday 9:00 AM - At work had to go the bathroom to dry off. The heat and humidity of a Tokyo Summer is like living in a Sauna. Mental note buy T-shirts.

6:00 PM - Finished work, changed into some warm corduroy pant's as instructed by Kim. The top of the Mountain is cold.

7:00 PM - On a bus to Mt. Fuji

9:00 PM - Arrive at Mt. Fuji. The Japanese are a sight to see. They are over equipped to do anything I am assured by Kim. All of them look like Alpine climbers with all the gear to match. Some have huge backpacks that I later found contain food and cooking stuff. Some are here with 5 year old children.

10:00 PM - Everyone buys walking sticks and bottles of oxygen. You can have the walking sticks branded at the top. The oxygen is for the altitude sickness. and everyone have a flash light head band, My wife will remember those. I'll have none of that.

11:00 PM - So far all dirt road about a 30 degree incline, Kim says it gets better, he lied. All ready at the first rest stop. soaking with sweat, I later find out there is a slow mist rising that I can't see, but that raises the humidity to 100%.

1:00 AM - Only about 40% to the top, I am wet tired and the temperature has dropped from 80 to 50, the incline has gone from 30 to 45 and I've gone from dirt road to gravel and loose rock, and now we are using our hand to climb over loose boulders in a some what zig zag pattern so many light I don't need one. More straight up than not, every 10 meter a large sign cautions; Beware of falling rocks is English and Japanese, that gives me a warm fuzzy felling.

2:00 AM - Finish the rocky slope so for the next mile or two, some one has installed steps about 1 to 1.5 feet high each. That last about two hour.

4:00 AM - Back to rocky, dirt road. The sun is beginning to come up over the horizon, we figured we would get to the top by 4:30 but now we art shooting for 6:00 AM. I am so cold.

4:30 AM - I am so tired and depleted and cold, the temperature is below freezing, and the sun is coming up over the horizon. We all meet up together and take pictures with the red sun in the back. God I'm tired, my body hurts, head hurts, and I'm suffering from oxygen depravation. I wish I had gotten one of those silly walking sticks. We stop for a 15 Minutes rest. Kim explain that the fist turn around point is at station 9.5 and the top is station 10.

5:30 AM - We are back to climbing over sharp boulders again. Two gates left to the top. I can see the first gate. I think, what am I doing here. I need oxygen, my stomach is tight, I want to throw up and some 60 year old just past me, I hate her and as soon as I catch up to her I'm tripping her down this rocky slope. Why do people do this and why would they do it twice, both William and I agree that we just want off this slope ASAP. If this cell phone worked I would pay money to get off this slope.

6:30 AM - Past the first gate and I can see the last one clearly about 75 degrees above me. I am way past the pay money point. If anyone offered to carry me I would let them do immoral thing with my body after. I stop to rest every 10 minutes. If I do not see the top of Mt Fuji I could not give a rat's as*, all I want to do it get off this blasted mountain. And the only down path is from the top and I've lost my party. The ex-marine and the rest of the 20 something crowd that I came with. Piss on them. My fellow climbers look like they could all pass out and you don't have to speak Japanese to tell what someone is saying, I just can't go on anymore. The looks of pain in universal. I am so cold.

7:00 AM - I can see the end but my body say's; fool, lay down and sleep and shut up. I lay myself on a large, sharp, jagged rock and close my eyes. I pray, God, I've been bad and should not be allowed to live, take me now. I am awaken by the wheezing of some teenager trying to get oxygen into her lung. By the look of her I'm not dead, but she wish she was. We look at each other, sad sight, if I knew Japanese I'd offer to kill her for same. But, I don't, so I get up.

7:30 AM - Walked through the final gate. I'm at the top of Mt. Fuji. There are people walking around reveling in their joy of finding flat terrain. God, I hate this place. Let me just find my party and get the hell down. I find them they had managed to beat me here by close to an hour and sucked up every bottle of oxygen in the process, I don't give a sh**. I just want down. I take a picture near the crater and see a few people walking around the crater to some other God forsaken spot that's another hour trip over volcanic ash, around a huge crater and past that spot that is rumbling and spewing hot vapor. I'm the only one that seems to notice the slightly active small crater, so I better not let on.

8:30 AM - After a bowl of $8.00 hot noodles, I would have paid double if asked, we started the decent. 30+ degree slope of loose volcanic ash and small stones. You slip and slide all the way, If you don't slow down from a run you will go right off the mountain. Not a guard rail in sight on the down path. Makes me miss the two foot pole strung with nylon rope that were on 10% the up path. Kim say's the decent is harder then the ascent. Yea, right. Gen-X, the things they say, darnest.

10:00 AM - God this is hard, my calf muscles are killing me, my knees are shot from the pounding of jumping down at each step and it's hot again. If you don't control your speed you end up on your face in a pile of ash and rocks or off the side. Kim had a point.

11:00 AM - One more rest stop to go. We are all trying to figure out why any one would want to do this twice. All of us swear that is just not a possibility, this is our last time on this mountain.

12:00 AM - Back at base camp 13 hours later, waiting for the bus at another noodle shop 10 dollars a bowl. William ponders, if we had come earlier and rested longer at almost the last base camp this would have been a better trip. If I'd stayed at a cappuccino bar in Tokyo this could have all together been avoided. Serves me right for following a bunch of X'er up a mountain.

On a two hour bus ride home ended my first Japan excursion. Names have not been changed to punish the guilty. I wonder has this taught me anything? No, I don't think so. This is not the first nor will it be the last stupid thing I've done. What has changed is that I have gotten older and it hurts more now, that is all.

As you are reading this Tom Truglio is thinking, beside I told you so, there is something seriously wrong with those Gen-Xer, stay away from them Essien. Dan Stocker is probably calling his travel agent. Don't forget oxygen Dan.

Learn more about Mt. Fuji