Monday, December 15, 2014

Hakushu Distillery Tour

     I wanted to post about one of the last things I get to do before I head home. There is a whiskey distillery, the Hakushu Distillery of Suntory, quite near to where I live, with the mountain nearby providing good water for the process. They give free tours of the distillery and free tastings at the end. It has been on my Japan Bucket List for a long time, but I have never wanted to do it alone for good reason. Alone, I would have no one to drive once I have had my allotted free drinks at the end of the tour--Japan is quite harsh with their legal limits for driving with.03% being the limit. One of my co-workers, Gon-san, knew I had been wanting to go so offered to take me and be my driver. How could I ever say no?!?
Suntory also has their Yamazaki Distillery near Osaka.
ENGLISH! I can finally understand what I am looking at!
The whiskey museum we poked around before our tour. In the picture above of the brochure you can see the observation bridge sticking up out of the trees.
     The museum itself was pretty amazing. It included the history of whiskey itself--dating back to biblical times--all the way to the history of whiskey in Japan. Suntory's Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 just recently won best whiskey in the world, even beating out all Ireland and Scotland. I already knew this stuff was good, I guess I just didn't know HOW good. Once you wind your way through the three floors of the museum, there is the nature observation bridge. In Japan, nature conservationism is a very big thing and most big companies, especially ones that could potentially harm the environments they are operating in, put a lot of money into protecting it. So not only is the ground where the distillery is where they make whiskey, it is also a nature preserve, mainly a bird sanctuary.
Replica of an old style pub in the museum--doesn't look that unusual to me, but in Japan that's a novelty.
Can't have an exhibit about whiskey without a section on the U.S.
This was the size of an entire wall--people around the world had to think Americans were insane.
View of Yatsugatake, the mountain I live on, and the bird sanctuary below.
     The first stop on the tour is where the fermentation happens. These huge vats are about  ginormous --yes super precise measurement. They're as tall as a house and probably fifty feet across. It smelled like a bunch of baking bread in this whole building. The next part of the tour was where the magic happens.
Adorable tour guide that explains every step of the process--well I had my little headset for English.
Now that's a tub I want to bathe in.
On the Hakushu property there are twenty two of these huge warehouses where they store the barrels of whiskey to age. The second we walk in to the one we were touring, I was in heaven. It was like taking a shot just by breathing. This place was MASSIVE. It was about two stories tall and who knows how long, but it was just row after row after row of barrels of whiskey. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Just one row or column or whatever you want to call it.
And then you turned around and it went down the other way.
Found a whiskey that's the same age as me!
     The tour was pretty short, but the best was yet to come. Afterwards you go to the tasting room where our tour guide taught us the correct way to make a highball, whiskey and soda over ice, and then you get to have two complementary drinks any way you'd like. Of course I had to try even more, so after my drinks, I went to the tasting bar where you could try all the whiskeys that went into their blends. I chose the 12 year old that had been aged in a sherry cask. Suntory recently bought out Jim Beam so it was a little odd seeing an American brand being considered part of their house menu. I really wanted to try the award winning whiskey of theirs, but it was $25 for just a tasting, so I stuck to the cheaper ones.

The tasting bar--with juice for the drivers. Those men in suits clearly were not about the juice.
Highballs are pretty much my favorite drink so this was the perfect little afternoon activity.
They even gave you snacks!
My tasting--it was delicious.
End of the tour and tasting with some Christmas gifts in tow.
     After the time at the distillery, Gon-san wanted to take me to the local sake brewery. Unfortunately, they closed a half hour earlier than he thought and we weren't able to have the free tastings at their brewery. I was able to buy a bottle to take home as a Christmas gift and stop at the local sweets shop down the road. Booze and sweets--I think the Japanese have found the way to my heart!
So sad they were closed--but I probably didn't need anymore free booze anyways.
Thought I could make these cookies last until I got home. That was a laugh.
     The days are slowly winding down, but knowing I will be back helps. I have too many things left to do!

                        Until next time,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Learning to Cook Japanese

     It is widely known around KEEP that I love to eat and I'm the weird American that loves pretty much all Japanese food. As the days are starting to wind down here, I want to get in as much as I possibly can. Hoshii-san from Seisen-Ryo, whose parents had my family over for dinner while they were here, invited me to her parents' house once again for a Japanese cooking lesson. Hoshii-san's mother already knew how interested I was in Japanese culture. She is a very crafty woman and collects old kimonos to create things with and enlightened me one night on the customs and how kimonos correlate to a certain season and some kimonos are for old women and some are for young. I learned so much from her already so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to learn even more. Plus, I already knew she was an amazing cook!

     On the menu were two different items, okonomiyaki, which is a kind of savory pancake for a lack of a better term and one of my favorite Japanese foods, as well as karaage, which is Japanese style fried chicken that I was told was a must to learn because it so popular. 
Gathering all the supplies and ingredients--that's my Japanese notebook from Hoshii-san's mother there with a cover made from a kimono. I thought it was more than fitting to write the recipes in there.
     Now this isn't a cooking blog so I won't bore you with all the steps to creating this okonomiyaki masterpiece other than you take all the ingredients and mix it together, pour it on the griddle, flip it, and top it with even more goodness. We made two different types, the normal "everything but the kitchen sink" style and then a bacon, corn and onion one. Getting hungry thinking about them again!
Chopped seaweed and dried shrimp. 

Katsuobushi, or dried, smoked fish flakes that are as common on food in Japan as butter is in the US, used as a topping.
Different okonomiyaki sauces for the final product!
Mixing the cabbage, an egg, the dried and fresh squid and dried shrimp and other ingredients together to make the batter.
Side #1 cooking.
Finished product with okonomiyaki sauce, seaweed flakes, kotsuobushi and Japanese mayo as toppings. Mmmmmm!!! If you ever get the chance to buy Japanese mayo, do it! It's life changing.
Our bacon, onion and corn one--to die for!
     Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the karaage process because I was more instrumental in that cooking process, but the way it differs from American fried chicken is you marinate it in soy sauce, sake, garlic and ginger for a bit then roll it in flour and then fry it a few times. I can totally understand why this delicious dish is so popular. Everyone told me it is a special day when this is served for school lunch. I'm planning on bringing this home to the family so we can have it for Christmas dinner--we'll see how that goes. 

Until next time,


Monday, December 1, 2014

Community English Classes

     In addition to English camps at KEEP and English classes for the KEEP staff, I have also played Charlotte Sensei for classes for young students in the Hokuto City community. My coworker in the international relations department, Murata-san, wants to create a place that kids can come and have fun while learning to prove that English isn't scary. Totally a great concept for me because I am not a trained teacher, just a lover of the English language. The kids range anywhere from seven to eleven years old, depending on who comes that day. We have class once a week for an hour in two different towns and play a lot of games and draw and color to supplement the English lessons. Carla and Gelo, the other English speakers from the Philippines, and I have found that traditional lessons don't go over well when the kids have spent all day at school and have been given the chance to unwind a little before they are unleashed on us. A lot of the students have been part of the English camps at KEEP as well, so I have gotten to know them and their personalities. Have you ever tried to tell a room of children to settle down and they have no idea what you're saying and because they are familiar with you they just laugh and keep running and kicking their slippers at each other? Well I have. Not for the faint-hearted.
Signing in at the beginning of class--they get to practice writing their names in romaji (English letters).
Carla and Gelo going over parts of the face for a lesson.
     This past week was our final week of class. It just so happened to coincide with Thanksgiving so I thought it would be fun to have a lesson about what we were thankful for. They learned the concept of being thankful, new words for the things they like and a little bit of American culture. I of course had to incorporate the hand turkey into the lesson. They always love the chance to color and be creative.We brainstormed ideas of what everyone was thankful for and wrote them on the board and then got to work.
Lots of new words we learned tonight--share was definitely the most important one.
My example turkeys.
When I told her she could only put boyfriend once and needed to be thankful for more things I was told that she in fact had three boyfriends she was thankful for and that's why boyfriend was on three fingers.
Coloring our turkeys!
An attempt at silly faces with our hand turkeys!
     Next year we are going to continue our classes in the two towns and even add an adult class! The class in Sutama is going to be for our very beginners--think preschool type activities, while classes in Oizumi will be for the more advanced kids followed by the adult class right after. Teaching is by far my favorite part of my job here and when I feel like I am contributing the most, but I like when I can teach them all a new way to say goodbye or good night (you don't know cuteness until you teach a class of kids "See ya later alligator. After awhile crocodile.) and then give them back to their parents. 

       Until next time,

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving in Japan

     Just a short post about Thanksgiving. They say the hardest time being away from your home country is during the holiday season, especially if the country you live in doesn't celebrate said holiday. It is also one of the things I get asked about the most "What do you do for holidays?!?!" I'll be the first to admit I love food--all of it, in every form, at any time and any holiday that is celebrated purely by eating is alright in my book. First off the idea of stretchy, eating pants does not exist in Japan. They eat to nourish themselves here, not to gorge themselves on 18,000 calories in one sitting. I knew sitting at home not celebrating just wouldn't do. I remembered the teachers from Iowa that I had met at County Fair so I messaged one, Bethany, and she invited me to spend the Saturday after Thanksgiving with her and some other teachers that were celebrating. I couldn't get off work for Thursday, but it was the next best thing.

     Have you ever tried to go shopping for specific ingredients when you can't read the language. I feel like this is now something I should be able to put on a resume. I wanted to contribute something to the meal since everyone was nice enough to take pity on me. After a trip to the grocery store, where I took a wild guess that the vinegar I chose from the twelve different varieties was the correct one, and a trip to the foreign import store on a hunt for nuts and cheese, I had a three different dishes to make. The broccoli salad went off without a hitch. The cranberry, feta, walnut salad needed to be improvised. Soo--walnuts pretty much don't exist in this country and the only feta cheese I found was in a snack pack with olives and swimming in olive oil. I figured it just added to the flavor profile, right? Alas, the Japanese pumpkin, or kabocha aka one of my favorite Japanese veggies, dish I wanted to make did not come to fruition. Who would have thought that you might need to make sure something is ripe before you buy it? Such a crazy idea.

All in all it was a great night with new friends and lots of wine and Uno. Now everyone can rest assured I am taken care of during the holidays!

Home cooked American meal--chicken, mashed potatoes and corn courtesy of KFC.

Teachers in Kofu--all from Iowa, so it was just like being at home in the Midwest. 
First holiday away from America. 
Until next time, 


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My First Experience in Kimono

     As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Seisen-Ryo sets up a traditional tea ceremony in the lobby for guests about once a month. I have participated a few times, but mostly as just a guest enjoying the traditional green tea, never one serving. Well this time I was told I needed to get the FULL experience and be on the other side of the tea--in full kimono. The ladies from the office that put this on brought so many kimonos for me to choose from. I of course chose the pink because obviously it was the girliest. I also learned that the darker kimonos are meant for the older ladies and it would be inappropriate for me to wear anything but a bright color because I am so young and single, which was represented by the sleeve length of the kimono. The longer sleeve shows that you are married, while the shorter sleeve means you're single and ready to mingle.
Shameless selfie!

They said I was really good at the "kimono shuffle".
     Dressing in kimono is no easy feat. It is not some sundress you throw on and run out the door. This is about a ten step process. Now I am by no means the average size of a Japanese woman, I am closer in relation to Godzilla than these women that were dressing me. The first step is to put on the little white slip part to act as the undergarments of the kimono. Next comes the really fun part! The look you are working towards in a kimono is pretty much a rectangle. A kimono is absolutely not meant to give you feminine curves, so you start building this box around your waist. There were probably five different layers wrapped around my waist. Lest we not forget the rope that goes around your thighs to keep the kimono folded over and from dragging on the floor. Between my height and very much western hour glass shape--these poor women had their work cut out for them dressing me. The were impressed I fit in the tiny shoes though. I'm guessing they probably thought my feet were going to be massive, too.
Finished product--only just a smidge short in every possible way.
     I only spent two hours in kimono serving tea and while, yes you feel pretty glamorous in it, finally getting to take it off and unwrap all the layers can only be explained as feeling like taking off those high heels at the end of the night and finally getting to put your feet up, everything having felt squished and now it's all free!  
The decoration for fall with coordinating poem.
That little grey pocket square there in my kimono is like a little napkin to serve with. If you want to learn more about the process, or get a refresher, here's the link to an older post where I first learned about how to make traditional green tea.
All of my tea master teachers on the right (notice their darker kimonos?) and then Sandi, a board member of the American Committee for KEEP, next to me and Jennifer with the American Committee for KEEP office next to her.
Tea Master Charlotte.

     Komatsu-san, in the reddish kimono in the group photo, was generous enough to give me my own kimono! She says it used to one of her daughters. I'm now official! It's a beautiful orange ombre that I can't wait to wear for the next tea ceremony when I get back--hopefully my ribs will be back in place by then. I highly recommend trying out true, traditional kimono if you ever are in Japan and get the chance!

                Until next time,

Monday, September 1, 2014

"He who climbs Mount Fuji is a wise man, he who climbs twice is a fool"

     There is an old Japanese proverb that says just that and I of course couldn't leave Japan being considered unwise now could I? Now most of you that know me well know that I could be considered more of an indoor creature, getting it from my mother whose idea of camping was a hotel without room service. So why would I willingly put myself through a grueling 5 to 8 hour trek up a mountain? Because I am a person that does things for the story and how often can people say they have climbed one of the most iconic mountains in history?! Plus I have a mild obsession with Fuji-san and seeing her every day from a far just wasn't enough. I had to quench that thirst for adventure. Besides, from where I live she doesn't look THAT big.

Driving there it still didn't seem that big of a feat! The weather on the other hand was less than ideal.
     Well that's the understatement of the century. Fuji-san's climbing season is only about two and a half months a year, from July to mid September. Outside of that season, she is known to be temperamental and snow either hasn't completely melted or the snow has already started to fall. I had made plans to climb with a friend at the end of August, but when they canceled at the last minute I thought to myself I could either wallow in self pity or I can suck it up and do this on my own because there are only a few days left to do this this year. I knew that if I didn't climb I would regret it for the rest of my life. Since I had already started stuffing my climbing pack with food, water and extra layers and egged on by the fact that one of the interns had just finished climbing on her own a few weeks ago, I decided to tackle her all by my lonesome. 

It takes finally saying "screw it" and asking strangers to take your picture for you to get any memories out of experiences like this.
     I had been prepping for the past few weeks, going out of my way to walk everywhere, asking for advice from the Japanese people at work that had conquered Fuji before--layers, bring extra layers they said--and reading up on the different trails to try and decide which would be best for me. Mt. Fuji has four different trails, the Yoshida Trail, Subashiri Trail, Gotemba Trail and the Fujinomiya Trail. I finally concluded that the Yoshida Trail would be my best bet--the trail head being at one of the highest elevations so it would be a shorter trail, the most popular amongst climbers which would benefit this solo climber, and it was the only trail that was in Yamanashi Prefecture which is where I live so it seemed like a fitting choice. I knew I definitely wanted to be at the summit for sunrise, but also didn't want to push myself so I decided to take my time and start in the afternoon, sleep overnight in one of the mountain huts to get the "Japanese" experience and then continue climbing to be up top for the 5:15 am sunrise.

     Because Fuji recently was deemed a World Heritage site, it has become an even more popular destination for climbers. During the busy climbing season, to get to the trail heads at the 5th Station (you can start down at the bottom of the mountain at the 1st Station of the trails and get the traditional religious experience of the climb, but as the popular saying goes "Ain't nobody got time for that.") you must take a bus from the designated parking areas. This gave me ample amount of time to look at all the other Japanese climbers and get a serious case of insecurity. Here were these people in their heavy duty hiking backpacks, with hiking poles hanging from them that match their raincoat suits that match their boots that match their hats that coordinated with their pants---did I mention the Japanese are SERIOUS about their outdoor gear. Here I was with my dinky little backpack, windbreaker and some layers tucked down under my extra water and granola bars. I'd made it this far and paid to park and for the bus--couldn't back out now.

     So the bus lets you off at the 5th Station for the Yoshida Trail. It is a popular place for people to come to just spend the day. There are a lot of shops and restaurants and on a good day has, purportedly, gorgeous views all around. It all felt very Swiss Alps--that is until you heard the shrill voices of the Japanese tour guides ushering their groups along with their little flags waving in the air. 

Cute little village fit for the average day tripper.
     This was the point where you depart from the geriatric crowd up to get their ice cream fix and get omiyage to take home to the grandkids. One last stop at the bathroom and you're bombarded with everyone changing into their rain gear. This was about 12:00pm, so it was still fairly warm with the 5th Station being at about 7,800 feet, but it had started to drizzle a little. I took my obligatory beginning of the trail picture [see above] and headed out. 

Let's do this!
     So once you start along the trail, it gets eerily quiet. The best way to describe it is when Harry first goes into the maze in the Tri-Wizard tournament and it goes from all the hustle and bustle of cheering to just silent. You can hear the mutter of the other climbers, but at this point you are few and far between. Adding to the effect was the fog (maybe technically clouds?) that would roll across the path. 

Doesn't really look like a mountain yet does it? 
     So you go along like this--on flat ground with trees--for a fair amount of time thinking this is a piece of cake, until you start to think you've done something wrong because it shouldn't be THIS easy. As soon as you think that, that's when you start going up. It isn't too far of a trek to the 6th Station, which is where the real climb starts. 

Like I said--the Japanese are serious about their outdoor gear. It was one of my favorite part of the climb, following the rainbow of climbers.
     The trail for awhile is this zig zag path, which you can kind of see in the picture. You go up at a diagonal, turn, go up the other way diagonally on and on for hours. It was a nice way to break up the climb though. I gave myself little goals--alright two more zig zags and you can stop for a break. You built a kind of camaraderie with other solo climbers this way. You would see them stop, you would continue on, they'd pass you while you were taking a break, etc. etc. I'm sure a lot of people do soul searching on this leg of the climb, but really all I thought about was putting one foot in front of the other and when was an appropriate time to stop and eat, which was a struggle because I wanted to eat all my food in one sitting...typical. 

     You zig and zag for awhile until you reach the 7th Station when the actual "climbing" begins. You pretty much follow these tour groups the whole way up at this point. I knew I stuck around the same group because I kept recognizing a family with a Japanese wife and a German husband and their son. The rest of the first day is best described in pictures.

Following the rainbow to the 7th Station.
The torii gate representing the beginning of the 7th Station--there're mountain huts that sell food, space to rest and for 100-200 yen you can use the bathroom!
Looking back down the mountain after passing through the torii gate.

Those are the mountain huts up there--literally built into the mountain.
I finally broke through the cloud line and was starting to get a good view! The mountain huts below with rocks to keep the roofs on.
     Being solo and knowing I had a bed waiting, I was in no rush to get anywhere. I took everything at a leisurely pace, stopping for water breaks frequently and just generally enjoying the time with myself. Each mountain hut sells portable oxygen for those that need it, but I was determined to let myself acclimate to the altitude as I went and not need to shell out the extra cash for it. I was still traumatized from the altitude sickness I had when I was 8 during a family vacation in Snow Mass and I was not about to relive that. The trail up to the 8th Station, where I was going to stay the night, boasted some of the best views yet. It really was just awe inspiring with the clouds looking like the white caps of a churning sea. Along this part of the trail is where I saw the most mind boggling thing--while all of us tourist climbers were stopping for bathroom breaks and food and water breaks, these mountain guides were stopping for smoke breaks. I didn't think anything of it at first until I noticed myself huffing and puffing and thought wait a second--how in the world can these men be doing that?!?! 

Looking down the mountain--doesn't seem like I've done much climbing at all.
Looking back towards Kiyosato!
Made it to the beginning of the 8th Station--only two more hours to my mountain hut!
Probably one of my favorite pictures of the hike--was trying to just get a picture of the trail up from one of the 8th Station huts and I caught this male model here. Didn't notice his gaze off into the distance until later and just cracked up.
As the sun started to set on the day, we were treated to some really beautiful colors in the sky. 
     I made it to the last mountain hut before you start the final ascent to the summit, which is where I would be staying, at about 7:30 pm. They say a Fuji climb to the top should only take about 6 hours--but let's be real here--that's if you're really booking it. I was having a great time just enjoying the scenery. So at the hut I booked a space for the night. The staff was fantastic! They seem to really know their stuff ask you how you're feeling and recommend you don't go to sleep right away and eat some dinner first--at least with my limited Japanese and their mediocre English I think that's what I was told.  I still had an ample amount of rice balls from 7/11 so I hunkered down to eat in the tatami common room before climbing into my spot in the sleeping area. Now when Americans think of paying money to sleep somewhere, they think they're going to be getting if not a room to themselves at the very least a bed. Nope. Not on Fuji-san. When I put my bags down I had a whole row of futons--Japanese version of a mattress--to myself and even still did when I went to sleep. This was not the case when I woke up to a stranger spooning me. Quite a different experience seeing as that is probably the closest a Japanese person has ever gotten to me (I will frequently have open seats next to me on the trains in Tokyo even during packed rush hour). I just rolled over and went back to sleep and she was gone by the time I woke up at 1:30am to start my climb to the summit. I actually started at the same time as the one tour group I had been following the whole way up because I saw the same family again--we did the typical silent acknowledging look that communicates "never going to see you again, but this has been fun".
View of the city of Gotemba from the "backyard" of my mountain hut.
All strangers--I was one of the last to arrive for the night so most people were already asleep.
My cozy little mat there on the end on the bottom.
Early wake up call--head lamp ready to activate. 
One last view of the mountain hut before I started my climb.

The steps guiding you to the path right next to my mountain hut. The lights up there are head lamps of climbers that go an even earlier start than I did.
     This leg of the trek was by far my favorite. It is done in complete darkness, obviously because it's two in the morning. The only light is coming from your head lamp and if you get far enough away from the groups, you can sit on a rock, turn the light off and feel like you could touch the stars. I had read that Fuji makes it feel like you're about to reach the Earth's ceiling, but there is nothing like actually experiencing it. This was also probably the most challenging part of the climb, where you're actually using your hands to pull yourself up rocks, but you've come so far already you are running on pure adrenaline and ecstasy knowing what you've accomplished already. This is the part where climbing Mount Fuji became the top most #1 thing I have ever done in my life. You're exhausted, you're excited, your legs want to give out, but you keep going. 

SUCCESS!!!! Torii gate at the summit of Mt. Fuji!
     Once you reach the summit you realize you are on the top of a mountain 12,000 ft high---and it is freezing cold. I brought layers and all but it is COLD. There is nothing blocking the wind anymore and it just ripped through my dinky little windbreaker on top of my Northface on top of a zip up on top of a long sleeve shirt on top of a turtleneck while I stand there and watch these seasoned Japanese climbers break out those space blankets you see runners use after marathons and then start up their little camping stove to make tea. I will say I did feel more prepared than a group of military guys in their fleece jackets and cargo shorts with tennis shoes. I made it to the top at about 3am so that meant I had about 2 hours to kill. I got myself some souvenirs to mark this momentous occasion and then went and staked my front row claim for the sunrise. It was the longest two hours of my life. I couldn't even stand to have my gloves off to take pictures with my phone for very long. With all that said it was totally worth it.
Heated mountain hut for those not brave enough to endure the cold for a good seat.
Beginnings of the sun starting to rise. In typical Japanese fashion, it reminded me of a Pokeball.
Sun almost completely up with the weather phenomenon I like to call "donut cloud".
Almost there--and almost frozen through!
My front row neighbors freezing in solidarity.

Before the sun completely rose, I had to get up and move to get feeling back in my extremities.
Had to take a "What Would Sue Say?" bracelet up top. What would she have said? Probably get me off this mountain--it's cold and I want a Diet Coke.
And we have an official sunrise at 5:13 am! 
     My original plan had been to do the ninety minute trek around the summit of Fuji, but it was so cold it hurt, so as soon as that sun rose I started hustling down the mountain. I figured I needed to block the wind and the temperature would start rising as I went down. This was by far the worst part of the adventure. My knees hurt to the point of tears and the trail is all volcanic rock and sand and you're prone to slipping and falling. The fun part is over and now you just want to get off this hunk of rock. I slipped and fell twice and the second time I just laid there in the middle of the trail leaning on my backpack like a turtle that had been overturned. I was officially over it. If anything were to stop me from climbing again it would be the thought of having to climb down again.

Icicles at the start of the trail down.
People that beat me to the descent.
Pure volcanic sand--pure murder. Pretty view though.
Looking back up at the climbers that were all going to pass me.
View of Mt. Yatsugatake--the mountain I live on.
Finally made it back down to the beginning of the trail. Since there was a lot of cloud cover the day before, I didn't see this view. This day it was clear and made it look like I just spent the last 21 hours doing nothing.
     When I finally made it back to the 5th Station to get on the bus, the exhaustion was like nothing I had experienced. You felt oddly connected to the fellow crazy person next to you that just made it down with you. Passing other people about ready to start their own climb all bright eyed and bushy tailed made you wonder what the hell are these people thinking, but I'm already planning my climbs for next summer. It's pretty aggressive seeing as it's taking awhile to recover from this climb, but I want to climb all three of the other trails before I leave. Guess I'll be a fool three times over.
Guy behind me waiting for the bus that perfectly summed up how everyone felt.
Can't climb Fuji without bringing back Fuji themed omiyage for everyone in the office---It's snow covered Fuji chocolate!

Until next time--