Friday, January 8, 2010

Tokyo For Christmas: Day Seven

December 29, 2009
Day Seven

Okay, back to wrap this trip up! Let's see, where did I leave off. Oh yes, the much anticipated Day Seven, our trip to the mighty Mt. Fuji. I had been eagerly awaiting this day, ever since I knew we were going to Japan. The first time Nick came home from Japan, he took a picture of Mt. Fuji from the window of the airplane that he was on. That picture totally fascinated me. I don't know exactly why, but I think it was because Nick actually took the picture and it wasn't a photo in a magazine or the logo on a water bottle! My son was seeing this well known world famous geological wonder with his own two eyes everyday. How cool is that? Maybe not so cool to you, but to me it was.

We decided that in order to "do" Mt. Fuji, it might be advantageous for us to actually take a guided tour. So Mr. Travel got on the internet and found a tour company in Tokyo that gave such tours. They were expensive, but all three of us thought that it would be well worth it. Nick had a chance to climb Mt. Fuji earlier in the summer with a group that went from the base, but he was on crutches at the time and missed out so he hadn't really been to it either. He does have a pretty good view of it from his apartment though.

So we bought our tickets on line and I anxiously awaited the day of the trip. We had to take a train at 7 am that would take us to the bus station that the tour departed from. We had to be there by 9 am. The bus was big, like a normal tour bus that you see and our tour guide (don't ask me what her name was, I can't remember) spoke English pretty well. Mr. Travel didn't have hardly any trouble understanding her (that's a rarity in itself for Mr. Travel to be able to understand anyone who has the slightest accent! LOL) The guide was also good because she was full of information. She talked almost the whole time telling us all about stuff. It was very interesting to say the least.

We drove though Tokyo and she pointed out several buildings and landmarks but as we started to leave the city and go up into the mountainous region, I started to fall asleep! Actually that is normal for me. I can hardly stay awake in a car if I am not the one driving. I make terrible company on long trips, because I often doze off!

We finally saw rice fields, but of course they don't grow rice in the winter!

This was our first glimpse of Mt. Fuji, it's behind those clouds.

NOTE: Don't forget you can see bigger pictures by clicking on the picture itself and hitting the back button on your browser to get back to the blog.
Some of these you might want to enlarge!

Another glimpse, behind those clouds!

Our first stop for the day was the Mt. Fuji visitor center where we would get out and explore the visitor center and see Mt. Fuji from the observation deck. It took a couple of hours to get to the visitor center on the bus.

There it is, Mt. Fuji!
You guessed it, behind those clouds!

Can you believe it? I was heart broken... How much money did we spend to see this? You have got to be kidding me! In all my excitement and anticipation of seeing Mt. Fuji, the possibility of NOT being able to see it because of cloud cover never once entered my mind! My heart was broken. :( I can remember Nick saying "I want my money back, what a jip!" Oh well, I am sure there are several, probably thousands of people each year that take the tour and don't get to see the mountain.

Our guide graciously apologized for our misfortune and told us that maybe the clouds would clear off while we rode the bus to the first station. I prayed that they would, but deep down I knew that those clouds weren't going any where!

There were bus loads of people there at the visitor center and we were only allowed about 20 minutes there. There was a gift shop and several informational things to look at, but it was all so crowded you could hardly do anything. You actually needed about an hour or more at the visitor center.

But while we were there, we found out a few interesting facts. The official climbing season is from July 1st - Aug. 26th. Climbing is restricted to this season only because of the weather on the mountain. The average climbing time from the 5th station is 6 to 8 hours to the top and 3 to 5 hours back down to the 5th station. I think that my dad's brother, Uncle Dexter, has climbed Mt. Fuji. You can drive all the way to the 5th station which is at 7560 ft. The peak is at 12,385 ft. It is considered an active volcano, but it's last eruption was in 1707–08.

When we reached the first station, this is what we saw.

Just joking! I wish this is what we saw, but we saw more clouds! What a bummer! This is a picture of a picture at the visitor center! LOL

This is actually what we saw.

I don't think I have mentioned this in any other post, but one thing we noticed is that the Japanese are very conscience of public safety. There is always some one or several people directing traffic every where there are several cars trying to park. Also, every construction site we saw had several "safety officers" who all have batons and whistles. They whistle short whistles every time a construction vehicle is moving! They also stop all foot traffic until the vehicle has passed. As you can see, several people had drove up to the first station hoping for the same miracle that we were, for the clouds to clear.

I got the idea of taking pictures of the pictures at the visitor center from the tour guide. As she was apologizing for the weather, she told us we could always take pictures of the pictures inside the visitor center. I wasn't alone, several people were doing just that! Here are some more:

Mt. Fuji in the spring, see all the cherry blossoms, must be quite a sight!

The bus tour usually drives up to the 5th station in the summer when the road is passable, but on this winter day we were only allowed to go to the 1st station. There was a gate across the road and the guide warned us NOT to venture past that gate, it was strictly against the law. I imagined it would be like trying to drive up Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mtn. Park in the middle of winter. Doesn't happen! We spent 20 minutes here, freezing, standing around with everyone else in a parking lot with nothing to see but clouds and the guys directing traffic and parking the loads of tour busses!

After the 1st station it was time to head back down the mountain to our destination for lunch. It was some nice hotel, I can't really tell you where though.

This was in the lobby of the hotel. The guide told us it had something to do with the New Year. Each symbol, like the fruit and the flowers, means something. We saw several smaller versions of this kind of thing hanging on doors through out Tokyo, now we know what they were for. Kind of like our tradition of a wreath on the door at Christmas time.

Yummy treat offered at a bakery in the hotel.

Pretty center piece that resembled a cake at the hotel in one of the public areas.

Stain glassed windows went all the way around in the restaurant that we ate at.
It was shaped in a circle. These angles seemed out of place in Japan!

As we were waiting for our food to arrive, I noticed one of the ladies from our tour with her camera out on the deck taking a picture of something. I didn't want to miss a picture taking opportunity, so I went outside to see what she was doing. I know, I'm so nosy! This is what she was taking a picture of.

Now these are the real thing folks!
Not pictures of pictures!

Still not the image I had imagined in my mind when I thought we were going on a guided tour of Mt. Fuji, but for sure the best view we had seen of the mountain thus far. After a quick lunch, we had to scarf down our food because we only had about 45 minutes there, it was back on the bus to our next destination, Lake Ashinoko.

Country Chicken Girl and Mr. Travel on the bus.

The next stop was the Hakone Komagatake Aerial Tramway. Here's the literature on that. "Komagatake, the central volcanic cone of the Hakone range, rises 1,327 meters above sea level. An 1,800 meter long aerial tramway operates between Hakone-en and the summit, and the ride takes 7 minutes. From the gondola, which has a capacity of 101 person, one can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of Lake Ashinoko and the surrounding mountains. On clear days you can see all the way to Sagami and Suruga Bay and the distant Seven Islands of Izu. The summit of Mt. Komagatake offers a magnificent view of Mt. Fuji."

They weren't kidding about cramming 101 people in that tram! We were packed in there like sardines. Reminded me of taking the tour at Hoover Dam and riding the elevator there! LOL Anyone done that before?? Also did you catch the key phrase "on clear days"?

Egads, there it is again... The stupid quotation mark! Does the question mark go on the inside or the outside?

There was this little sledding hill at the bottom of the tramway.
Looks like they had man-made snow for it.

The Tramway.

Going up. That's a golf course on the side of the mountain, beautiful.

Don't forget to click on some of these photos for a larger image!

The lake.

Going higher, more of the golf course.

On a clear day, this is what we would have seen, Mt. Fuji to our left.
Uh, you guessed it, a picture of a picture!
But I see they don't have 101 people crammed in that tram!

At the top. It was FREEZING cold up top so we didn't climb
all those stairs to go see that temple.

Nice shot of the moon at the top.

Wow, this is getting long. Sorry, hope I'm not keeping you from something, like work! Are you reading this at work? You know who you are, yes you! Don't tell me you are getting paid to read my blog at work. LOL! I'm almost done, I think!

When we got back down to the base we took a cruise around the lake.

Is this not the cutest paddle boat you've ever seen?

They sure had all their ducks, well, swans in a row! Hee, Hee!

Not too bad of a view of Mt. Fuji.

Our guide assured us these were not pirates! Cool ship though!

Man fishing with net. Brrr....

This is what our tour boat looked like. Happy tourist from Sweden.

Hold on, I've got to get a cup of coffee and give my butt a rest. This is taking for-ev-er!

Okay, I've got my coffee and a little left over Christmas candy.

When our boat tour was completed, we got back on the bus and took it to the train station. From here we would ride the world famous Bullet Train. The first line was inaugurated in 1964 and was the world's first high speed train service. At that time the trains already ran at about 200 km/h. Nowadays they reach speeds of 300 km/h. That's 186 mph!! That's fast!!! And I mean fast people. I took these videos of the train passing while we waited at the station for ours. The first video kind of follows the train which doesn't do the train justice. The second shot in the video shows me taping straight on. You can hear Mr. Travel instructing me on how to get the shot. You know he is an expert at these things even though he doesn't know how to run the video camera or the digital camera! He's amazing!

I do have to say that this was actually one of the highlights of the day. All the other people who were on the tour with us were just as fascinated with that train as "us rednecks from the sticks" were! Wish our coal trains moved this fast! Can you imagine waiting at a train crossing in your car and seeing this come blazing down the track. It would be gone before you even knew it was there! Oh, turn up your sound to get the full effect (and to hear Mr. Travel instruct me on taping) and blow a fan in your face so your hair blows back off your face!

After the train ride back to where we started, we then took another train, just the regular kind back to the train station by the base and staggered back to the hotel. We were exhausted and had just put in a 14+ hour day. The next day was the day we had to leave. One more post about that and I'll wrap this puppy up!

Thanks for taking the trip with us!

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