Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Mt. Fuji (Page 1 of 3)

Hiking Mt. Takao

After visiting Mt. Takao last March for the Fire-walking festival, I really wanted to return to hike the mountain this fall. Rain spoiled my plans to go a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, I was able to reschedule the hike today and I invited my friend, Amanda, to join me. In the end, it worked out perfectly. We caught the 7:21 train from Jimmuji and made it to the base of the mountain by 9:30.

After leaving the train station, we found this extra large map showing the mountain and various hiking trails to the top.

One quick picture before we started our hike!

We decided to take the darker orange trail. The Inariyama Trail.

The English description provided says, “while some sections are a little rough, this ridge top trail offers refreshing wonderful views.” It left out the ridiculous number of stairs we would climb over the next 90 minutes!! These pictures only show a portion of the stairs. According to my Apple Watch, we climbed 139 flights of stairs! My thighs were on fire by the time we reached the top.

Honestly, I’m not sure we could have enjoyed better weather. It was such a glorious day. The foliage was spectacular! Here are just a few pictures from our ascent.

Once we reached the top, the view didn’t disappoint. We were able to see Mt. Fuji. Look at her snow cap!! Beautiful. Absolutely, beautiful.

At the top, we enjoyed a cold brew and warm bowl of Udon.

The biggest surprise of the day was the number of people! Despite the hard climb to the top, I’m glad we decided to hike the Inariyama Trail. We passed so many people coming up the paved (easier) trail as we were walking back down.

We walked about part way down before taking the tram down the mountain. The leaves were so beautiful.

I’m so glad it worked out for us to hike Mt. Takao on such a beautiful day. Fall in Japan might take a little longer to arrive, but it’s worth the wait!

Hakone Fall Foliage

On Wednesday, Katie and I decided to take a trip to Hakone. We left our houses at 7:00am and met at Zushi Station at 7:30am. From Zushi we took two more trains to finally arrive at Odawara Station. Here was the first part of our route.

Once we arrived in Odawara Station, we purchased a two day pass called the “Hakone Freepass”. For ¥4000 ($40.00), the Hakone Freepass would allow us to ride the Hakone Tozan Train, the Hakone Tozan Cable Car, the Hakone Ropeway, the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise, and the Hakone Tozan Bus. Basically, we made a HUGE loop around Hakone. Here is the map we used.

We started on the far right and worked our way counterclockwise around Hakone until arriving back at Odawara.

Our main objective was to use this trip as a reconnaissance trip to see what we would like to do with our families and future visitors. Also, we really wanted to see fall foliage. We accomplished both!

Here is our first Hakone train, the Hakone Tozan Train. It was crowded! I mean it’s Wednesday!! This train had several switchbacks as it went up the mountain! It was weird to go in one direction and then all the sudden go in reverse!

We made a brief stop in Gora before getting on the Hakone Tozan Cable Car. Already, we were leaf crazy!

We continued up the mountain from Gora on the Cable Car. It was not quite as crowded.

The Cable Car took us to Souzan. At Souzan, we took a moment to savor the view.

After a brief stop, we took the Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani. The views of foliage from the Ropeway were spectacular! Can you see the shadow of our Ropeway Car?

As we boarded the Ropeway, we were given damp towels to use in case the Sulfur smell was too strong.

As we came over the mountain on the Ropeway, the Sulfur mines were visible. The steam is being released from the Earth because of the thermal vents associated with the volcanic valley. Wow!!

After we exited the Ropeway, we had an opportunity to walk around and look at the Sulfur mines from above. The steam rising was so cool. The science teacher in me was completely geeking out. Poor, Katie. She was a sport to put up with my giddiness!

Here was a fun surprise that I wasn’t expecting. I had heard about the “famous black eggs” of Hakone, but I didn’t understand exactly what they were.

The eggs were sold for ¥500 for 5 eggs. I bought a sack of eggs for us to share.

From my research I learned, the eggs are boiled in hot sulfur springs. The Sulfur causes the egg shells to turn black. The black eggs are called Owakudani “Kuro-Tamago” by locals. Legend goes that eating the eggs will add 5-7 years to your life.

The eggs appear to be from out of this world, but they tasted like a normal hard boiled egg or tamago. I took a picture of my half eaten Kuro-tamago with the cute egg seat! Kawaii!

As we finished our egg snack, we couldn’t believe our eyes! For a brief moment, Mt. Fuji was visible!!

Our next leg of the journey was the second part of the Hakone Ropeway. We took the Ropeway down to Togendai-Lo where we would board the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise. The ride down the Ropeway was beautiful.

I hate to leave you hanging on the Ropeway… but, this post has potential to gone on and on. I’ll tell you the rest of the story tomorrow. Stay tuned for Hakone Fall Foliage Part Two tomorrow!

Enoshima Sea Candles

Last week, I went out to Enoshima Island and during my visit, I saw an advertisement for a candle illumination display. Wednesday evening was the perfect opportunity for me to revisit the Enoshima Garden, Sea Candle, and candle illumination. I arrived a little before sunset and was very happy I did! I was able to capture a few pictures of the sunset and Mt. Fuji. 


I purchased my ticket and quickly went up into the Sea Candle before the sunset was complete. I wanted a few more pictures! 


I returned to ground level and I tilted my phone to capture Mt. Fuji and the Sea Candle. A very gorgeous evening! 


After watching sunset, I returned to the candle illumination. The path leading to the Sea Candle was illuminated with white votives. 


The candles were placed with great care throughout the garden. 

The Shrine seemed majestic with the red votives lining the path. 


The candles were beautiful and it was so quiet. It wasn’t very crowded, but still a good number of people snapping pictures from every angle. As couples spoke, they whispered. The silence truly set a peaceful tone for the evening. 

This is my fourth visit to Enoshima Island. It is moving up on my list of favorite places near where we live. Even though it takes a little while to get there, the train ride is nice along the coast. Also, there are a lot of shops leading up to the Shrine that can be fun to explore. The Shrine is beautiful and there are a lot of stairs! On a clear day, the island provides a fantastic view of Mt. Fuji. It is worth a visit during cool (remember- lots of stairs!) and clear weather.  One last picture of Mt. Fuji as I walked back to the train station. 


One more funny story about the Enoshima Sea Candle. In America, we would refer to this structure as a lighthouse. I call it the  Enoshima Sea Candle because those are the English words written on the signs on the island. Even Google Maps refers to it as the Enoshima Sea Candle. 

The funny thing is, I have told both of my English classes about my visits to Enoshima Island and the Enoshima Sea Candle and they respond with confusion. They will say to me, “you call it Sea Candle?” Clearly, confused by the silly American who isn’t familiar with lighthouses. I try to explain I call it that because that’s what the sign says- in English. Normally, I would call it a lighthouse. “Oh, yes, lighthouse. Yes, very beautiful.” Yes, very beautiful. For now on, I will always giggle when I see a lighthouse aka Sea Candle. 

Hello Autumn 

The storm cleared out last night and sunrise greeted us with an amazing view of Mt. Fuji. It looks like the little bit of snow cap on Mt. Fuji already melted. I have no doubt it will return very soon! 


The rest of my day was filled with errands. When I finally made it back home, the crisp temperature and leftover breezes from the storm made me want to bake up some fall treats! I made the always delicious pumpkin cinnamon rolls. 

Along with tasty, these rolls deserve the prize of messy! 


I had a little helper as I baked. This little guy came to my screen door and chatted with me. I decided to name him Groucho. Because, eyebrows! 


Just so we are clear, I did not feed him. Nor did I coax him to my house. And I am NOT adopting him. I just thought it was cute he followed me home. He left as quietly as he came, once he realized I wasn’t going to give him snacks. 

I will bake the beautiful pumpkin rolls in the morning and send them into work with Dave. Happy Halloween to SRF. All treats – no tricks! 

Beautiful Day

Today was beautiful. It warranted a get out and go attitude. I decided to venture over to Enoshima Island. I’ve been a couple times, both with Dave and Dina. It provides a spectacular vantage point for viewing Mt. Fuji (on a clear day). I knew today would be a great day for a trip to Enoshima because I snapped this picture earlier in the morning from Zushi Beach while enjoying a U.S. phone conversation with my girl, Jules. Enoshima Island is the island slightly off center and in front of Mt. Fuji. 


One part of the island I haven’t had the opportunity to explore are the rocks and sea cave. It is some what of a trek out to the island. It requires three trains and a good bit of walking. Here was my route. 


As I walked across the bridge to the island, I was giddy seeing Mt. Fuji with a snow cap. Signs of cooler weather! 


I decided to walk the stairs on the island vice taking the pay escalators. I figured the steps would do my rainy day lazy legs a favor! I was huffing and puffing by the time I reached the top. But, that view! 


Before descending down the other side to the sea cave, I decided to stop for a quick visit at the Sea Candle. I love the gardens and the Sea Candle and I knew the view would be amazing. I purchased my ¥500 ticket from the machine like a boss and entered the garden. I was greeted by thousands of unlit luminaries. 


I saw the flier with relevant information and have already made plans to return next week in the evening to see them illuminated! I think it will be so enchanting. 

As I approached the Sea Candle entrance, an advertisement for the caves caught my attention. I looked it over and then proceeded to the ticket taker at the entrance. He nicely informed me the sea caves were closed. Oh? Hai! Because typhoon caused damage. Oh! Arigatōgozaimas! I was so thankful he told me before I walked down the other side of the mountain! He also told me he wasn’t sure when it would reopen. 

The views of Mt. Fuji from the Sea Candle were as beautiful as I hoped! 


I walked around and enjoyed the 360 degree view of Shonan Beach. The bridge pictured is the one I walked over to access the island. 


As I was returning to the elevator to go back down, I observed a man taking the stairs. I decided to follow and ignore the sign written in Japanese. Again with the great views! 


The spiral staircase took me down to the Terrace level. As I came to the end of the staircase, I realized my error. Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t think I was supposed to use the stairs. 


Oops – a – daisy! Let’s just keep this between us, shall we? But, just so we are clear, I paid for an entry ticket to the garden and Sea Candle! 

One last view from the Terrace. 


And from the bridge as I walked back to the train station. 

On my way back home, I stopped and did a little shopping. Both in the Shonan Beach area and then in Kamakura. It was just such a beautiful day! 

Mt. Fuji – Take 2

Ironically enough, Dave and I climbed Mt. Fuji the exact same weekend last summer. I was a little hesitant to climb again after our experience climbing down in the torrential rainstorm. As Sonia and I discussed expectations, I said I wanted amazing weather at the summit. I wanted pictures of being above the clouds with blue skies and a Torii gate. Realistically, I wanted it to not rain as much as it did last year. 

We took the MWR tour and left Yokosuka at 2:00 am Saturday morning. We made a brief stop in route for provisions and arrived at the 5th station of Mt. Fuji a little before 5:00 am. I decided to carry the same hiking stick from last year and fill it with stamps. This was Sonia’s first climb so she purchased a new stick to have stamped along the route. Here is the location of the 5th station. It is the furthest accessible point by vehicle. 


Of course, one of the best parts of the hike is seeing an amazing sunrise. 


From 5th station we begin our hike to the 6th station. This part of the hike is repeated when we come down the mountain. We took a quick picture at the 6th station before going up! If you look closely at the picture, you can see the results of the high winds. Most of the way up the mountain today, we were challenged with very strong and gusting winds. 


The hike from the 6th station to the 7th station consists of wide igneous rock covered trails with a lot of switchbacks. In my opinion, it is the most boring part of the hike. 

It was a lot of this! 


And fortunately, this! 


The 7th station is fun because here you can receive the first stamp on your hiking stick. Also, the terrain of the trail changes dramatically. There are a lot more large igneous rocks. I remembered how challenging they were last time to climb over because their texture is so rough. Today, they were exceptionally difficult because of the strong winds. At times I felt like a human sail and decided to keep my head down and hold onto the rocks with both hands! Sonia was smart and brought sunglasses to keep not only the sun out of her eyes but also dust. She was a great help to me by yelling “put your head down” when she felt a strong gust. We were covered in dust by the time we came down the mountain. 


The other important thing to note is how beautiful the skies were during this portion of our hike. It truly set the stage that I just might have my amazing views. 

From the 7th station we continued on to the 8th station. 


At 3100m, the views were still spectacular. 


We reached the 8th station just before 8:00am. Time wise, the 8th station is approximately halfway up the mountain. We had about three hours of hiking remaining before reaching the summit. We enjoyed my new favorite find at Family Mart. Cheeseburgers! 


As we were finishing up our mid morning snack, the clouds were building and rain started. Quickly we gathered our gear and started hiking again. The rain didn’t last too long! Whew! The next stop was the 8.5th station (that’s what the sign calls it!) or the original 8th station. It takes an average of 80 minutes to go from the 8th station to the 8.5th station.  The elevation change is a little over 300m. Along the way, we noticed new trail maintenance and a sign. It was fun to see “new things” on this journey! 


Through this portion of the journey, we kept good tabs on our pace and level of exertion. Knowing we had about three hours of hiking to reach the summit, we remain cautious and steady. None the less, our hearts were pounding pretty hard at times! As we passed the 3240m – 3400m elevation, we stopped for a few fun photos. 


I was able to get a good picture with a Torii above the clouds. I took time to embrace the wabi-sabi. It’s may not be at the summit but, it’s a great picture! Beauty in the imperfections. As a result, I have a cute Torii picture on Mt. Fuji. 


As we arrived to the 8.5th station, the clouds started to roll in, again. 

That’s a patch of snow! 


From the 8.5th station to the summit is about 90 minutes. The elevation change is a little over 300m. It was during this stretch last year when the wheels started to fall off because of the weather and our inexperience with climbing Mt. Fuji. This year, I at least knew that the 600m sign meant we still had 25 minutes of strenuous climbing! 


As we arrived at the 9th station, we were greeted by another Torii. Perfect opportunity to catch our breath and take a few photos. 


The final stretch to the summit remained. The clouds were thick. 


Off we went. One boulder scramble, stair step at a time! 


Until finally…. we made it!! Check us out! 


At the summit, we stopped for lunch. It was just before 11:00am. About 6 hours of hiking with necessary breaks. Not too shabby! Actually, 6 hours is the average. Lunch was a delicious warm bowl of ramen! By the time we reached the summit the only spot left on my hiking stick was for my second summit stamp! 


We ate, had our hiking sticks and temple books stamped, and used the restroom. By the time we were heading down the mountain it was noon and it was beginning to rain. Oh, no. I honestly didn’t know if I had the strength to endure the descent in the rain again this year. Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out. The rain stopped pretty soon after we left the summit. 

The descent without rain was so much easier. We each slipped a couple times on the loose igneous rock. But, we were ok. We were dry and warm. 


Somewhere along the descent, the clouds were beneath us and above us. 


We could stand on the ledge and I could get my cool cloud picture. 


I experienced wabi-sabi yet again. The summit isn’t the only place magical pictures can be captured. 


The remainder of the hike had a few sprinkles and maybe a slip or two. Without all the rain, coming off the mountain was a breeze. We were back at the 5th station by 3:00pm. 

We had two hours before the buses left to clean up, eat, and shop. Which we did. I enjoyed Mt. Fuji Melon Bread and a Mt. Fuji Craft beer. Delicious reward for a great hike. 


After our hike today, I’ve decided I love Mt. Fuji even more. She has a way of showing you your strengths and weaknesses when you make the climb. Mt. Fuji doesn’t give you what you want, but gives you what you need. Sonia needed to check Mt. Fuji off her Japan bucket list. She was ready for the challenges climbing Mt. Fuji would give her and she came out victorious. 

Today, I needed perspective and a dose of wabi-sabi. Finding beauty in the imperfection. Honestly, I don’t feel like I have any unfinished business with Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji is a good sensei (teacher). I came and I climbed – twice. For that I am wiser, not a fool! 

Working Lunch

Sonia and I met in Yokosuka today for a “working lunch”. We met at ConeLi pizzeria. Formerly known as Napoli Bar Pizzeria.


Sometime in the past few months, the restaurant has changed names. The pizza was still worthy of an honorable mention. And the perfect carbo load for the upcoming weekend adventure details we needed to work through.


You can call me a fool when I tell you the planning details we were working on at lunch. We are going to hike Mt. Fuji on Saturday. Remember this quote: “You are wise to climb Mt. Fuji, but a fool to do it twice.” I went back to reread my blog post from last August when Dave and I hiked Mt. Fuji.  Ironically, it was the exact same weekend last summer! With respect to hiking it again, I said maybe. If it was on someone’s bucket list. It is on Sonia’s Japanese bucket list and she was preparing to hike it by herself. Being a good friend, the thought of Sonia hiking by herself and selfishly, the chance to see an amazing view we didn’t see last summer… changed my maybe to a YES! Oh, boy!! 

One Picture

Short and simple because it has been a very adventurous, fun, and wonderful day. I’m ready for bed. Tomorrow, I will share the rest of the story. For now, I’ll leave you with one picture worth more than a thousand words. 

Take A Break

Dina and I rented a car and drove to see the Fuji Flower Carpet on Thursday. Although I had already been a few days earlier, I was happy to visit again and hopefully sneak another peak at Mt. Fuji. We left at 5:30 am. It was about a 2.5-hour drive and we arrived right when the park opened at 8:00 am. Here was our route.


I must also briefly tell you about the drive. As we drove towards Mt. Fuji we started with a great view and then clouds slowly started to settle. Dina put it nicely, “I’m observing a changing weather pattern.” However, we drove through a REALLY long tunnel and on the other side, we drove out into the sunshine and cloudless skies! It was a Fuji miracle! We were SO happy!!

Our luck continued at the flower carpet because we definitely beat the crowds and traffic! It was worth going early. I won’t overload you with pictures- I’ll just share a few of the beauty. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to see Fuji twice!


Without the crowds, we were able to have a break time. Ahhhh, beautiful view, good coffee, and cream cheese filling. (I was expecting red bean paste!)


After we snapped a plethora of pictures, we decided to head out to Mount Minobu. Dina picked up a brochure showing Mt. Fuji, a Ropeway, and a pagoda. She quickly did a Google Map search and realized we were an hour away. So, off we went! Maybe my favorite part of the drive was seeing Lake Motosu. It was breathtaking. We pulled over to take a few pictures.


Later during the trip, Dina used Google Translate to attempt to find the name of the lake. Google Translate told her it was the lake on the back of the ¥1000 bill! Sure enough!


Dina’s excellent navigation skills, she will laugh at that statement, enabled us to easily find Minobusan with ease.


We enjoyed the Minobusan Ropeway ride and the view of Mt. Fuji from the top even though the clouds were starting to set in on it.

At the top were lots of trails and a temple. I look forward to returning in the fall with Dave and possibly catching a sunrise over Mt. Fuji!

By the time we came down the Ropeway, we were ready for lunch. We were fortunate to find a noodle restaurant around the corner.


As we were eating, I noticed a sign – fitting right into today’s theme!


The hearty lunch proved to be essential for the rest of the afternoon. According to the brochure, the pagoda was part of a Monastery.


Next to the pagoda were a lot of stairs. Going down. So down we went.


Once we reached the bottom, we read this sign.


As I mentioned, a lot of stairs. 287 in fact. We just walked down them. We would obviously need to go back up. “The Stairs provide you attaining joy of enlightenment.” Hmmm… I’m enlightened about the soreness in my quads today!


The monastery was very unique. It was hard to capture the magnitude and beauty of the buildings and grounds. I took a few pictures and hope they provide you with good highlights. I will definitely suggest we take a drive to Mt. Fuji and see Lake Motosu. If the fall foliage is peaking, we should also make a trip to Mt. Minobusan.


Here was our trip home.


We arrived shortly after 6:00 pm. A glass of wine and rehashing the journey with Dave over pizza was a nice way to wrap up an adventurous day!

Fuji Flower Carpet

I took an ITT tour on Monday. The tour had four points of interest. Because we were heading to Mt. Fuji, we left at 5:00am. Given the beautiful weather, it was totally worth it! Honestly, the weather today could not have been more perfect. Mt. Fuji was visible all day. Here was the route to get to the first stop.


1. Open Air Museum

Our first stop was to the Saiko Iyashi no Sato Nenba. It was actually the same replicated village we visited when the Cummings were in town. The sky was even more clear today and the later blooming Sakura were lovely.


The carp flags were still flying from Children’s Day this past Friday. They made for a beautiful photo.


Both of my normal liberty buddies were busy today. I went on this trip solo. However, I was able to make friends with a mutual friend who was also traveling solo. She and I took off for a little bit of a hike. Besides a beautiful trail, we saw this guy! Japanese rat snake. Gross!


My new friend, Katie, took this picture of me – what a view!


2. Shiba-Sakura Festival

The main attraction of the tour was the Shiba-Sakura Festival also known as the Fuji Flower Carpet. The Flower Carpet is a carpet of moss phlox planted in beds all around the garden. It was stunning. And of course, crowded!


The phlox is pretty. With Mt. Fuji in the background it was amazing.


Maybe a few more pictures. It was just so beautiful. Today, I opted for grape ice cream.


I took a quick video of th Flower Park from the overlook. To help you embrace the beauty.


3. Fuji Kachōen

Our third stop was at Fuji Kachōen – “A different world of flowers and birds.” Here we were able to walk through a beautiful greenhouse and view different species of birds. The greenhouse was my favorite part.


Look at these giant begonias!


The best part of the birds was having the opportunity to “hold” an owl. “Hoo you looking at?”


4. Otodome Waterfall and Shiraito Waterfall

Our fourth and final stop was to visit the Otodome Waterfall and the Shirato Waterfall. The water from the falls is snow melt from Mt. Fuji. It takes 20 years for the melted snow to make its way to the waterfall! Here is Otodome Waterfall.


To reach Shiraito Waterfall, we walked down a short path of 100 steps.


After viewing the falls from the bottom, I walked up to the overlook. The views were worth the stairs.


It was an amazing trip. I honestly can’t believe how lucky I was with the weather today. When you visit, I hope we have luck with the weather when we visit Mt. Fuji. It was such a glorious day!

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