Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Hiking (Page 1 of 3)

Sunrise at the Summit

Please grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine and settle in for the yarn I’m about to spin. It’s a pretty epic tale.

Thursday morning, I picked up our rental car at 7am. After that, I met up with Marianne and her son, Anthony. We were on the road to the Fuji Hokuroku Parking lot by 7:30am. We arrived just before 10am. So far, everything was going according to our plans. We were all a little bothered by the clouds as we approached, but choose not to acknowledge them. Before catching the bus, we changed into our climbing gear, bought our round trip bus tickets to the 5th station, and had a small lunch snack. Please notice the clouds covering Mt. Fuji in the background.

We boarded the bus by 10:30 and we were leaving 5th station to begin our ascent by 11:30. Thirty minutes ahead of our estimated schedule.

All was looking good. Until about 15 minutes into our hike, it started to rain. By the time we reached the 6th (45 minutes later) we decided we should donn our rain gear.

And so it began. The ascent to Fujisan Hotel a 4-5 hour climb in the rain. Oh, wait. I forgot to mention the wind. The wind was ridiculous. Several times I thought one of us was going to be blown off the mountain. It was intense.

The rain created another problem, too. Several of the lower stations would not stamp hiking sticks when it was raining. Talk about insult to injury! We were really bummed at the first couple stations. Fortunately, the rain let up a little and the number of hikers thinned and the stations further up would take the time to dry our sticks before stamping them. This picture was at the first station that would stamp our sticks. We were so happy!

As we climbed, the weather remained our enemy. There were several times when we were all ready to quit. We were cold, wet, and exhausted. Personally, I had to have some serious internal conversations with myself to “be cool” and “you got this” and push through step by step. I felt so badly for Marianne and Anthony. They were so excited for the climb. It’s hard to remain positives down motivated when you’re walking through clouds.

Finally, we made it to the Fujisan Hotel. We were all at a breaking point. But, there was no time for that. It was time for dinner. Curry and rice. I’m not sure I’ll ever eat Japanese curry again and not think of that meal.

After dinner, we were given instructions on where to change our clothes and then escorted to our beds. Our beds were interesting. It was like a huge slumber party with 100+ people we had never meet. But, it’s also Japan, so it was really quiet. The three of us decided to crawl into our bunks to warm up (the hut wasn’t heated). I realize now, I forgot to take pictures of the set up. Forgive me, I was in survival mode. The three of us were snuggled together with another group of hikers on either sides. We were on the lower bunk of a huge room with bunk beds on either side. There were no dividing lines between your bunk and your neighbors. Each person had a sleeping bag, heavy blanket and pillow. It was up to each individual to be respectful of your neighbor’s personal space. Marianne and I made an Anthony sandwich. My biggest surprise was how much and well I actually slept. I attribute it to the exhaustion, cold and nightcap. Marianne and I enjoyed a beer and discussed the day’s harrowing adventures before turning in. Before heading back to our bunks, we went out to check the weather. The wind was still blowing and gusting as strong as ever, but it had stopped raining!

Knowing we had a 2am wake up, we were falling asleep by 7pm. I woke up once and Anthony and I used the toilet. Oh, I haven’t mentioned this yet. The toilet is outside and adjacent to the hut. Plus, you have to pay ¥200 ($2.00) per person each time you use the toilet even with reservations! And did they ever stink! Ugh. What an experience. Anyways, I did wake several times during the night to someone snoring or talking, but each time I fell back to sleep quickly. Fortunately, I didn’t hear the person puking from altitude sickness – Marianne told me about that in the morning! By 1:30am I was awake and ready to go and so was Marianne. We began our preparations to finish the ascent to the top! Breakfast was awful. Cold rice with mystery meat. I opted instead for the yummy pancake I brought with me.

We were on our way to the summit by 2:30ish. It was not raining just very very windy. Horribly windy. I honestly thought I was going to blow away a couple times. I found myself grabbing onto the rocks for support!

But, we made it. And so, without further ado, here are my favorite sunrise pictures from the summit of Mt. Fuji. I think you’ll agree, they were worth the wait and effort.

After sunrise, I was ready to begin descending the mountain. I was yet again in survival mode and just wanted to get out of the wind. As the sun continued to come up, the day became more and more beautiful. The trek down the mountain was breathtaking.

Thursday we couldn’t even see where we were going to climb. I took this picture looking up at the trail Friday morning. From this perspective, Mt. Fuji looks pretty flat. Trust me, it’s not!

Just so we are clear on the difference between the two days. I took the same pictures on each day. Please notice the difference in weather.

Day 1

Parking Lot

Station 6

Day 2

Parking Lot

Station 6

I did suggest to Marianne and Anthony that we should walk back to the 5th station, refuel and then hike it again. Since the weather was good… they gave me a “hard” NO!

This was my third and yes, final Mt. Fuji climb. Our hiking sticks are full of stamps, I’ve climbed through all kinds of weather, with a wonderful husband and great friends. Now that I have seen sunrise from the summit, I can officially say I have no unfinished business with Mt. Fuji. This trek up Mt. Fuji was a lesson in patience, persistence and perseverance.

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” -Sir Edmund Hillary

From Fiji To Fuji

It’s true. From the Fiji Islands to the Mt. Fuji summit, this land was made for me to see.

I’m climbing Mt. Fuji for a third time tomorrow (Thursday). This time, I’m climbing it with my friend, Marianne, and her son, Anthony. To prepare, I read my post from the previous two years. Here is the link from when Dave and I climbed in 2016. Also, the link from when Sonia and I climbed in 2017. I’m glad I took the time to read through both posts again. I’m mentally preparing for rain. My fingers remain crossed for sunny skies. I also find it funny that in both posts I talk about not hiking it again. Famous last words.

Perhaps you’re thinking, why would you climb it again, Julia?!? Excellent question. I’m a sucker for a sunrise photo opportunity. I really wanted the chance to see sunrise from the summit. In order to do that, we need to climb during the day and spend the night at the Fujisan Hotel. The Fujisan Hotel is located at the original 8th Station (3360m). The summit is 3776m and about an 80 minute climb from the original 8th Station.

Here is a clear picture of the map for reference.

This could be considered the ultimate Julia Tour. We rented a car and I’m going to drive us to the base of Mt. Fuji. At the base, we have to park the car and take a bus to the 5th Station where we will start our trek. I think it should only take us about 4-5 hours to climb to the Fujisan Hotel. At the hotel, we will receive dinner and then sleep on a mat in a large room with many other climbers. From what I read, we will start hiking to the summit at 2am Friday morning! If all goes as planned, we will see a breathtaking sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji. (Fingers crossed)

I managed to squeeze all the essentials into my day pack. My hiking stick has no more room for stamps, so I’m going to carry Dave’s. Having your stick stamped is a fun part of the climb.

I’ll let you know how things go once I’m home Friday night. Please keep your fingers crossed for sunny skies! Because I’m definitely not climbing Mt. Fuji next summer!!

Connecting the Dots

I have hiked the trails in Kamakura so much and visited the many Shrines frequently. Despite my wandering, I’ve never taken the time to determine how they are all connected. Today, Katie and I hiked the Daibutsu Trail with the intention of finding the trails to the Benzaiten Shrine (Money Washing Shrine) and the Sasukeinari Shrine (White Fox Shrine).

We met at 8:30 at Zushi station and took the train to Kita Kamakura. We were on our way hiking by 8:45. We needed to set out early because I had my first Japanese language class today. (More on that in a few.)

The Daibutsu Trail greeted us with hydrangeas from the start!

It was also good to start early because it is humid and warm. Rainy season has started and as a result, the foliage is green and lush.

We made it to the first small Shrine at the top of the small mountain in good time. We were again rewarded with hydrangea beginning to bloom.

Plus, the early bird gets the… turtle photo! Oh my gosh! So, cute!

And more hydrangea. I loved the contrast of the fresh blooms with the old tree.

We continued our way through the park and used Google Maps to help guide us to the Money Washing Shrine.

Before too long, we were walking along a trail that passed above the Shrine. We stopped and looked around the Shrine before continuing on our way.

Finding the White Fox Shrine from here was a little tricky. We used Google Maps to point us in the right direction. However, we couldn’t find the path. Instead we cut through the neighborhood and found our way along the streets.

Less than five minutes later, we found The White Fox Shrine.

Here’s our selfie at the Torii. I love exploring with this girl. Kindred VB spirits. She’s adventurous and chill even when we have no idea where we are going exactly. My only complaint is she makes me hike in front and then proceeds to talk about snakes. And yes, we saw one today. Katie’s spirit name is “snake whisperer.”

The White Fox Shrine is still so cute.

We made our way towards the back of the Shrine. On my previous visit, I remembered I saw a trail leading up and away from the Shrine. This time, we followed it.

The trail was a little treacherous and would be awful hiking after it rained. It was already slick and a bit slippery. We made it to the top without issue. And back to the main Daibutsu Trail. It was here, we realized how the trails and Shrines connected. We normally follow the trail to the Big Buddha. The trail going to the left will take you to the White Fox Shrine.

If only we could read Japanese, this might not be such a mystery. As we finished up our hike, hydrangeas waved us goodbye.

We took the train from Hase Station to Kamakura Station. We walked around Kamakura and bought a refreshing beverage before heading home. My Japanese classes are now going to be held on Tuesdays at another student’s house here in Ikego. Our teacher is my Friday English sensei. I wish I would have asked her a long time ago… like 18 Months. But, better late than never! I’ll let you know how my Japanese improves.

Takatoriyama Buddha

It was a beautiful Sunday here in Zushi. The temperature was around 75 degrees and the humidity was down from 95% to 75%. Plus, there was a gentle breeze. This made it a great day to get out and enjoy a hike. I met Katie and her kids, Cullen and Virginia, at the Jimmuji train station. We hiked from Jimmuji Station up and over Takatori Mountain.

As we started up the trail, we passed the senior home. They still had large koi flags hanging from Children’s day.

We set off for the top of the mountain. Everything was so green compared to the last time I hiked this trail with Amanda a couple months ago.

We definitely didn’t have a shortage of stairs to climb!

We enjoyed a couple of the overlooks as we climbed. Unfortunately, it was a little hazy.

The trail is a fun hike. There are lots of large rocks making you feel like you’re really in the woods and climbing a mountain.

We made it with ease to the rock climbing area. The area with the chains was no problem for us! We walked up to the top of the overlook and enjoyed the view and the cool breeze!

My favorite part of the hike is finding your way to the stone Takatoriyama Buddha. The carving always makes me smile.

We made our way past the Buddha and to Oppama train station.

The last part is a walk through a neighborhood. The hydrangea were just beginning to bloom in this area. Regardless, they are a sign of so much beauty on the verge of blooming!

Bukhansan National Park

Bukhansan National Park is located on the north side of the city. We hopped on a bus Monday morning and it took us about 40-minutes to get there.

The weather for Monday was predicted to be the nicest all week. Perfect for hiking and enjoying the view above the city. The bus ride to Bukhansan National Park was very simple and a great way to see a little bit of the city. We reached the the entrance to the park a little bit after 9 am. We stopped at the Ranger station to review our hiking route to the peak of Bukhan Mountain, Baegundae, and we were hiking by 9:30. Side note: San means mountain in Korean – Bukhansan means Bukhan Mountain. Here is our pre-hike selfie.

Please notice the cute lanterns hanging throughout the entrance to the park. They are lotus lanterns and placed in celebration of Buddha’s birthday on Tuesday. Also notice the recycled rubber matting placed on the wooden bridge. The rubber helps provide more secure footing when the bridge is wet and also reduces the wear on the wooden bridge. Brilliant!

The hike through the National Park was beautiful. The trail was very well maintained and included a lot of stairs to climb. Shortly after the entrance was a spot along the trail to wash your hands and bring good luck for your hike to the peak.

Before too long we reached a view point. Already we could tell this was going to be a perfect day for the hike. The tall building in the picture is the Lotte World Tower, the tallest building in Seoul.

Around the city of Seoul is a stone wall. Even though the city has spread beyond the wall, it remains part of Seoul’s history and continues to be maintained. Part of our hike today was along the wall.

The Seoul wall has several gates. We hiked past one as we were climbing up.

We continued our climb up countless stairs. The views as we reached the top became even more amazing.

Check out this huge rock. Laurie snapped my picture with it and then informed me that was the summit we were hiking towards! There are tiny specks on the right side of the mountain, those are people!

Clearly, we had more hiking to do and more stairs to climb. It’s hard to read the distance sign, it says .1km and it’s pointing straight up! The last part of the climb was pretty intense. There were chains to hang onto and use to hoist yourself to the top.

When we finally reached the summit, we were so excited and invigorated.

After enjoying the view, we were ready for lunch. We packed sandwiches and a Korean pear to enjoy. I think we had the best view in the city.

After lunch, we began the climb down the other side of the mountain. The path was less crowded on the way down. I was able to snap a few pictures of the chains. Hopefully, you can see the trail became pretty challenging at the end because of the smooth rock and vertical angles. We were both glad we had long legs to help us climb!

Going down was easier and harder at the same time. It was less exhausting and yet more tiresome on our legs. The pounding was painful. Our tired quads and calves were shaking by the time we reached flat ground.

We caught the train home, showered, and were ready for dinner. Laurie, Izzy, Maddy, and I went out for Korean Barbecue. At the restaurant, we had a hot pot placed in the center of the table. It was covered with a grate. On the grate, we were able to grill our meat. We made lettuce wasps with the meat and assortment of vegetables. After the long hike, the dinner and beer were delicious.

Perhaps the favorite part was dessert. Ice Cream! Maddy and Izzy enjoying their sweet treat.

As we walked back home, we caught a glimpse of sunset. It was a sweet ending to a fantastic day!

Beautiful Weather

The past few days, the weather has been absolutely amazing. Yesterday, I spent time gardening and refreshing my flower pots on our front porch. Today, I decided it would be best to enjoy a hike. I started in Kamakura at the end of the Red Leaf Trail. Dave and I last hiked it in November. When we did that hike, we came to a fork in the trail and decided to stay on the course of the main trail. My goal today was to hike to the same spot and take “the road less traveled.” Because I was going the opposite way, I was able to gain a different perspective while hiking the trail. Like the steepness of the uphill – normally a downhill!

Soon I made it to the first split.

Did I already mention how beautiful it was today!?! I was dressed in capris and a short sleeve shirt with a fleece. Not too long into the hike, I put the fleece in my backpack!

I made it to the second split in the trail and continued along the path Dave and I traveled before.

It was after reaching the summit, the last picture above, that I veered left instead of right. I knew following the trail to the right would lead me back to Kamakura. The hike continued to be beautiful.

At one point, I passed a huge cemetery.

I also passed numerous other hikers out enjoying the day. We exchanged “Konnichiwa” and a couple times they would engage me in a conversation They would ask, “where from?” My simple reply, “Chicago.” Their response, “Ahh, America.” “Hai, America,” I would agree. I laughed and felt a little bit badly for my Illinois friends. I don’t mean to diss the state, or think Chicago is the only part of the state. It is just easier to say Chicago because Chicago is known internationally. So, yes, I’m from: Chicago, America. I also realize I’m from the United States of America. However, when I say I’m from the U.S., it creates much confusion. So, although there are many Americas, most people I meet think of the United States of America as “America.” Sorry, I digressed on that one, but I’ve had the question from wabisabisole fans as to why I say Chicago and not the U.S.

Back to my beautiful hike. After the cemetery, I pooped out at a rest station where I found a beautiful map. I studied it for no less than 10 minutes. I was still unclear about where I should go. There were three trail heads. One I came from. And the other two were a mystery. So, I just went in a direction that seemed correct according to Google Maps.

More beautiful trails.

Until I found a paper plant. OMG! This part of the trail sparked my vertigo. I had to stop, take a picture, and then put phone away. I was insanely worried I would slip. Thankfully, I didn’t see a snake!! I couldn’t help but wonder if he bamboo had been cleared to prevent people from falling.

I made it through and then quickly descended. Soon, I found myself on a road near where I teach English on Thursdays!! Ha!

I walked a little bit and caught the bus to Matsuura Train Station (one stop away from our stop). From there, I took the train home. (Not a picture of my train, but I love the other colored trains.)

I was home by 3pm. It was a four hour trip from door to door and about 5 miles total with 3.5 miles of actual hiking. Pretty good for a beautiful day. I rewarded myself with a glass of wine on our front patio with one of my new favorite plants. How many kitty cats do you see!?!

Before the Rain

I think we all are experiencing strange weather patterns. The back to back Nor’easters blowing up the east coast have us all captivated and thinking about our loved ones. Here in Japan, we are having lots of rain and wind. The humidity is starting to return with the rain. Yesterday and today were overcast and cool. Amanda and I decided to get a hike in before the rain returns tomorrow. We hiked the trail close to our house, Mt. Takatori. I always giggle when we pass by the nursing home at the start of the hike. There are always cute and strange statues.

Amanda and I came to a crossroads at the beginning of the trail. Here is the route we normally would take.

We hesitated because there seemed to be a very clear unmarked trail. Neither of us had ever taken it and decided today was a day for exploring!

Off we went and up we went!

Check out the worn areas on the rocks. Perfect for foot placement!

The trail went up and up and up. It was a total thigh burner!

We came to another crossroads and decided to go left. This led us back down and close a school where we started. Check out the wire mesh stairs. Brilliant idea on a potentially muddy slope!

At this point, we could either turn around and go back up the hill or end our hike and head home. We decided to double back. We finally knew we were on the right track when we started seeing the numbered signs!

We continued up and down and had an unrelenting burn in our thighs by the time we made it off the mountain.

Before getting on the train to head home, we stopped by the grocery store. I thought sushi sounded like the perfect dinner. Dave and I have a goal to eat sushi once a week while living here. It’s one of our favorites. Plus it gives me an excuse to use my Japanese pottery!

I hope everyone in the path of the upcoming storm remains safe. You’re in my thoughts!

Mt. Miurafuji Hike

Katie has asked me about different hikes near base that would be good for her to do with her kids on the weekends. I remembered the hike of Mt. Miurafuji and Mt. Takeyama I did last March. We decided to go today because the weather was clear and not too cold. We met at Yokosukachuo Station. It was our lucky day because we were on a yellow train! Usually, the Keikyu Line trains are red. Very rarely there will be a blue, white or yellow train. When this happens, I get very excited and consider it a lucky day!

We started our hike at the Keikyu-Nagasawa station. It was different than where I started last time, but I knew it would be closer to the trail head. We walked past a bunch of farms. They were full of winter vegetables. Cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and daikon (Japanese radish).

As we were walking towards the trail, we passed a couple of older Japanese ladies. They stopped us and asked us if we lived close. Yes, Yokosuka. They asked if we were going to hike Mt. Miurafuji. Hai! They then became very animated gesturing at our sneakers. We said we would be ok and then asked us to please be careful. Hai! Arigatōgozaimas! We continued on our way and found the trail head without trouble. The trail head is marked with a Torii located behind a school.

And then we began our ascent.

But, the view from the top of Mt. Miurafuji was worth it! We were able to see Mt. Fuji!

Our summit selfie.

We continued along the path. We were chatting away and taking our time descending.

I knew to look for a specific fall rock sign from the last time at an intersection. Unfortunately, when faced with the choice to go right or left, I choose left. The trail led us back down the mountain. I should have gone right. I thought the trail to the right was only a dead end. It does have a dead end, but it also is the connection to Mt. Takeyama. I knew something wasn’t right when we were back so quickly to the farms and plum blossoms.

When I got home, I looked at the map a little closer and realized the error of my navigation. Here is the map of the area.

We took the path in yellow. We omitted the portion in blue.

It would have added another 30-45 minutes to our hike. It would have been nice to see the other view. However, by the time we walked down and back to the Tsukihama train station, we were both ready for lunch. Another 30-45 minutes might have pushed us over the top! I sent my marked up map to Katie so she can hike it with her kids this weekend. All things considered, it’s better to take a wrong turn and make a hike shorter than a wrong turn that makes a hike longer. I’ll consider my navigation mistake a lucky one!

Hike and Lunch

The original forecast for today was sunny with a high close to 60 degrees. Unfortunately, it was cloudy most of the day and barely got to 50. I am definitely not complaining. Especially, as I continue to hear about the cold temperatures and snow storms back in the U.S.

So, despite the chillier conditions than we anticipated, Amanda and I set off to hike the Kuzuharaoka-Daibutsu Hiking course.

Before starting the hike, we made a quick stop at the Jochi-ji Temple. One of my favorites. What isn’t to love about Hotei – the God of Happiness!?!

Besides the God of Happiness, the daffodils were starting to bloom.

Without further delay, we were on our way along the trail.

At one intersection along the trail, I saw a sign for a restaurant I have been wanting to try. I’ve heard great things about the food at Cafe Terrace. Plus, on a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji.

The sign literally seemed like a sign for us to stop and enjoy lunch. We ordered first and then sat down at the cute outdoor cafe tables.

While we were waiting for our order, the sun started to come out. It was lovely.

The server brought our food and an information card about the restaurant. I was relieved to see hikers were welcome. I was worried we might be under dressed.

We both ordered the mac and cheese with side salad. It was delicious, warmed us up, and fueled us for the rest of the hike.

I definitely want to return to Cafe Terrace. I want to return on a sunny and clear day and sip a glass of wine while watching Mt. Fuji.

After our meal, we finished our hike and made our way home. The rain from yesterday made the trail a bit muddy and slippery. Fortunately, we made it through without consequence.

Hike & Lunch

Amanda and I went to Kamakura to hike the Red Leaf Trail. It was a crisp cool winter day. Perfect day for a hike and for viewing Mt. Fuji along the way.

Most of the leaves have turned and fallen already. There was one Japanese Maple along the trail still holding onto its leaves. It was beautiful in the sunshine.

A few more pictures from my favorite parts along the trail.

After our hike, we stopped at a cute little restaurant in Kamakura called Magnetico. As advertised, they had several craft brews and delicious food.

I ordered the taco rice bowl. The taco seasoning was a little different. It was more on the sweet side. Almost like a curry flavor.

I thought it was delicious. Amanda ordered the taco plate. She gave her dish a thumbs up as well. The other highlight of the restaurant was the art. I loved the Beer God with hops.

After lunch, we worked our way back home via the trains. I would definitely recommend this restaurant and add it to my list of places to take Dave. It was a nice hidden gem.

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