June 6, 2013 9:42 AM   Subscribe

"I lived in a hut near the summit of Mt. Fuli, the highest mountain in Japan,
for five months straight, four years in a row,
for a total of 600 days. Each morning,
I photographed the dawn from the same spot, chasing the ever-changing
drama that unfolded before my eyes.

Last month, artist Johnny Strategy's Spoon & Tomago blog (which "attempts to comprehensively cover all aspects of Japanese design from fine art and architecture to product and graphic design") devoted a series of eight posts to Japan's legendary Mt. Fuji.

The Posts:
* Mt. Fuji 101: A beginner's guide
* Trivia | 8 things you probably didn’t know about Mt. Fuji
* Yu Yamauchi spent 600 days on Mt. Fuji photographing sunrises (The subject of this post: "For me, this work offers a simple reminder: We are present in the here and now.")
* Photographing the many faces of Mt. Fuji
* 1000 years of art | Mt Fuji depicted through the ages
* Hot baths and Mt. Fuji | the ultimate form of relaxation
* Bring Mt. Fuji into your home with Mt. Fuji-related products
* Yukio Ohyama has devoted his entire life to photographing Mt. Fuji

Previously on MeFi
Mt. Fuji / Hokusai
* "Hokusai's 36 Views of Fuji, among others, from Mount Fuji in Woodblock Prints"
* "Hokusai's Great Wave"
Spoon & Tomago
* "Japanese Designers 101"
* "I don't know any jokes about running radishes. Please supply your own."
* "Crop circles in the sand"
posted by zarq (8 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Amazing. Thank you for this.
posted by timshel at 10:39 AM on June 6, 2013

Fantastic stuff. Those images in the first post are heart-achingly beautiful - just to know that another person somewhere out there actually saw that. Actually lived there. Wow. (So jealous!)
posted by harujion at 10:41 AM on June 6, 2013

posted by legospaceman at 10:48 AM on June 6, 2013

When I was a resident of Tokyo several years ago, I made the grueling 7-hour night climb from Station 5 to the top of Fuji to see the sunrise (this only takes about 2 hours with no "traffic"). Having come directly from sea-level, we were half out of our gourds with altitude sickness by the time we summited. Our speech was jittery and we were nauseated--it kind of sucked. Huddling with a dense crowd near a precipice, we stared at the cloud bank for maybe 20 minutes, just waiting and breathing and being cold. And then, I experienced one of those rare moments where the truth of cliches get confirmed, and the sun rose through the cloud bank, and I cried into my gloves. I'm tearing up right now just thinking about it.

tldr: If you visit Japan during the summer, make sure you get to the top of Fuji-san to watch the sunrise.
posted by lumosh at 11:02 AM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

What an excellent post. thanks.
posted by theora55 at 11:36 AM on June 6, 2013

Great post. I've been up twice, and was lucky enough both times to get clear weather. My favorite picture from the trips is not of the sunrise (which is amazing, as you can see in the pictures in this post), but of the land surrounding the east side of the mountain in the late afternoon. The sun casts a shadow that appears as a perfect triangle over the miles and miles of forest and roads below. It's pretty neat.

Two recommendations for anyone thinking of climbing:

1. Bring a climbing stick. These are especially useful on the way down, as the path is on a sharp decline and covered in hard little volcanic rocks, so having the extra point touching the ground will greatly help you keep your balance. It's also good for probing for the deeper rock buildups, which tend to be less slippery than when there are just a few rocks strewn over the hard path below.

2. Limit yourself to one beer at the top. I felt so good on the way up on my second climb that I had two Asahi Super Drys with dinner at the hut on the Eighth Step, never stopping to consider how my body would handle the alcohol at that altitude. Needless to say, a hangover at twelve thousand feet is not fun, especially when it costs seven dollars for a bottle of water.
posted by Kevtaro at 3:19 PM on June 6, 2013

I would think you would become a different person after an experience like that.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:53 PM on June 6, 2013

I climbed, or tried to, on my second day in Japan. I came here first as a student, on a foreign term with about 80 other students from my college. We landed on Friday, and had Saturday and Sunday to ourselves. I somehow convinced a group of students to take the bus with me, and climb the mountain. Everything about the trip was a stupendous failure. We couldn't find the bus station (it was around the corner, and closed, and we didn't realize we were going to miss the buses we'd planned on taking, and got going three hours late.

When we got to the mountain, we were told we should really stay overnight, and finish the climb in the morning. We decided it sounded like fun, except one student freaked out about their contact lenses, and we traipsed all over Kawaguchi-ko looking for a drug store. We finally started climbing quite late. Three of the people we were climbing with were cross country runners. I was not. I think, after the freshman fifteen, I kept going all three years. I was horribly out of shape, as was another student. The others just sort of jogged ahead, and the two of us slogged behind. The crosscountry people actually came back down after they'd gotten to the ninth station (where we were staying) to see where we were, then turned around and left us, again.

The slow two of us, we were playing leapfrog with a Japanese couple, and at one point, they took out a small aerosol can of oxygen and offered it to us. It was astounding how much energy we got from just a little breath. We kept leapfrogging them, we'd take a break, they'd walk past us, they'd take a break, we'd walk past them.

It was getting late, and the sun dipped below the arm of the mountain, and it got cold. Horribly cold. I honestly started thinking that there were crevices where I could just take a nap, even though I knew it wouldn't be a good idea. When I finally got to the stairs up to the station, I stood there for maybe five minutes trying to get the strength up to climb something like fifteen steps. There was an old man at the top (I'd seen him nearly jogging past me earlier, while smoking) shouting encouragement, waving a bottle of sake at me. When I finally got to the top, he gave me a cup, poured sake into it, and toasted me.

Inside, the hut was pretty packed, and the beds, such as they were, consisted of a futon on the floor, and a futon for a blanket. I'd carried up some bread and jam for everyone, so we tore open the bag and sat around eating that and relaxing. The plan was to wake up at 4 and finish the rest of the climb, which was only a couple hundred meters. During the night, however, the student I'd been climbing with, she felt sick, and I grabbed the first thing I could find, the bag for the bread, and she puked into that. I'd completely forgotten about the hole in the bag, and for some reason, she had leaned over on my bed to puke. The bottom futon was covered in her puke, and the staff came over, saw it, and took it away, leaving me sleeping on the wooden floor.

When it was time to go up to the summit, I was shaking so badly from cold that, as the others got up to finish the climb, I just rolled into one of their (still warm) futons and went back to sleep.

Fuji was brutal, and I doubt I'll ever climb it again. Once you get high enough, it's really just volcanic rock, rusty brown as far as the eye can see. There are, simply, nicer mountains to climb in Japan. Ookutama, which is about an hour an half past Shinjuku, has tons of great hiking and climbing trails. In the end, the best thing about Fuji was the loose dirt trail next to the ascent trail. It's a long stream of switchbacks, and the loose dirt allows you to literally run down the mountain. It was glorious, ten foot long strides, turning in air to plant at the next switchback so you can keep running. Easily the best part, for me.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:45 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

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