Fuji-san part two: How to recover from a near-death experience

Ryokan Dinner!

Three words: food, sleep, onsen. This is the Japan-prescribed solution to everything. Especially near-death experiences, perpetrated by an icon of Japanese culture: Mt. Fuji, or “Fuji-san,” as it is affectionately referred to. Fortunately, these three things can all be found in one place, another icon of Japanese culture: the ryokan (Japanese-style inn).

Before I get into that, though, I should probably briefly recap the Fuji-climbing experience. Astroviper covered it in detail, but here it is again, in case you missed anything:

We went to Mt. Fuji, expecting to see a beautiful view…

…but then Fuji-san tried to kill us, and we barely escaped with our lives.

That about sums it up. The Fuji in these pictures is literally the only view of Fuji we had in our whole trip. Poor Fuji-chan (who in real, non-photoshopped life is only about four inches tall), took a lot of abuse during the course of our collective psychological recovery – he got frequently yelled at, pummeled, and thrown in frustration. But in some ways, he also saved us, as he became the centerpiece of much of our comedic discourse. And humour is, for me at least, a most reliable coping mechanism.

After safely reaching the base of Mt. Fuji, we had to kill several hours before we could retreat to our ryokan room. Some people in our group, still frustrated at the outcome of our mountain quest, wanted to kill more than just time, so we also had the task of cheering people up, or at the very least assuaging murderous inclinations. So, the first place we headed, after filling our stomachs with delicious Chinese-style food, was the Teddy Bear Museum.

This, unfortunately, did not work out as I had hoped. Rather than smiles and happiness, the teddy bear museum caused a moderate amount of sadness and a few tears, shed by both us and some of the teddy bears themselves. See my post on Sora Bear’s incredibly sad Global Warming story for details. At least, thinking about bigger and more serious issues puts some perspective on how small our own troubles are in comparison. Maybe it helped a bit, in an unexpected sort of way.

After that we wandered around Kawaguchiko Lake for awhile, trying not to think about how beautiful the view of Fuji-san would be, if it weren’t for the fog. But of course that came up a little too often. We walked, and sat, and waited, and I complained about how no one would go in the swan boats with me. Then, finally, it was time to head to the ryokan.

Kawaguchiko lake and a cool footbridge

A distant view of the swan boating fun I was denied by my depressed comrades.

The boys, giving their best happy faces for the camera.

Despondent, I believe, is the emotion being portrayed here.

Ryokan time! For those who are unaware, a “ryokan” is a Japanese-style inn, that usually includes an onsen (hot springs/public bath), meals, and Japanese-style sleeping arrangements (i.e. tatami and futons). The particular ryokan we went to also boasted of a view of Mt. Fuji from the rooms and from the onsen. Except, in our case, the “view of Mt. Fuji” part never really happened. We put little Fuji-chan in front of the window, as a sort of memorial of the non-existent mountain. To some members of our group, Fuji-chan’s smiling face was a little too taunting, which resulted in him getting hurled across the room on several occasions.

After a pre-dinner visit to the onsen to bring our collective smell-level down to a bearable level, (our room’s air conditioning/purifying unit actually had a smell-metre, that was maxed out when we first entered the room), we donned our ryokan yukata, and sat down for what was possibly the most epic Japanese feast I’ve ever partaken of. My food alone took up about the same amount of space as my desk at work. Food for the four of us covered the entire table, and wouldn’t even all fit! It wasn’t even so much that there was a lot of food, but that there were a lot of dishes, each holding just a few meticulously placed morsels. I am a slow eater, even slower when eating involves making choices and setting priorities (what to eat first, and in what order, etc…), so I thought I was doomed, but I managed to consume nearly everything set before me.

Greg wears the Yukata with stylish defiance.

Dinner for two?

The four of us give our best serene Japanese pose before digging in.

An overhead view of our dinner feast.

This is some of the portion of food I was responsible for consuming, not counting the soup, rice and dessert that wasn’t yet on the table, and the stuff off to the left that didn’t fit in the frame!

After happily devouring nearly everything, my portion looked like this! Success!

After dinner, the awesome ryokan people cleaned up our carnage and made our beds for us. We thought it was a bit early for bedtime, but it didn’t take long for us to fade…

In the morning, we partook of a delicious breakfast feast, and then paid one more visit to the onsen before packing up and heading out. We were hoping we might get to see a view of Fuji-san in the morning, if the fog cleared a little, but little Fuji-chan remained our only hope. I will never forget the look on my friend’s face as he eagerly looked out the window to see Fuji-san, and asked me (who had just been at the window),

“Did you see it? Where?”

“Down and to your left,” I said, and he strained his neck and eyes to see what he was missing out the window. “No, more down and more to your left,” I said, and when he followed my directions and saw my innocent stuffed Fuji-chan sitting there, he almost lost it. Fuji-chan got thrown once again, and I got told again for the umpteenth time that weekend that I was a horrible person and that was the worst thing I could ever say, ever, and I wasn’t allowed any cookies. It was worth it.

After checking out, we wandered around the town in the drizzling rain for awhile, and had a hearty lunch before setting off for home. Yamanashi’s “special dish” is called “Houtou,” and is a delicious miso-based soup with large fat noodles and loads of yummy vegetables. It was so delicious, I would eat it every day if I could. Sadly, my own region’s special dishes usually involve a lot of meat; vegetables, if included, are a disappointing afterthought, or at best, a pile of shredded cabbage.

Houtou! Miso soup base, super awesome fat noodles, and loads of yummy vegetables. 毎日食べたい!

After that, we headed back to our respective home sweet homes. It had been quite the adventure, and while everything didn’t turn out as planned, overall I thought it was still worth it. After all, anyone who reads adventure stories knows the best adventures are not all about candy, flowers and unicorns. Personally, I was pretty impressed with us for getting as far up Fuji-san as we did in the conditions we were in. Some of our crew dealt with disappointment better than others, but I think by the end, we had managed to get everyone cheered up, and looking forward to Take Two next summer.


24 thoughts on “Fuji-san part two: How to recover from a near-death experience

  1. I liked your humor with Your Fuji stuffed animal in the window scene.
    Wonder if they have special dishwashers for all the small dishes…

    • Yeah we had fun with the little Fuji. I wondered about that dish washing thing too, but I’m pretty sure is a person who has to do them all by hand cuz they’re the fancy ceramic type mostly, and would probably fly around in a dishwasher!

  2. 日本に来てくれてありがとうございます(。-人-。)
    私は逆にアメリカやカナダに旅行をしてみたいです+(0゚・∀・) +dokidoki
    でも食事の時に正座なんて、ちょっと珍しいと思います`;:゙;`;・(゚ε゚ )ブーッ!!

    I wish you a nice & safe trip!゚・*:.。..。.:*・゜ヽ( ´∀`)人(´∀` )ノ・゜゚・*:.。..。.:*

    • さゆりさん、ブログを楽しんでもらったありがとうございました!いつかカナダへ旅行したらバンクーバに来て下さいね!またね!

      • バンクーバ!トロント!オタワ!
        ナイアガラの滝!とか色々行って見たいですね(っ-♉・) wink


        • バンクーバには生まれましたが、トロントには行ったことがありません!大学生のとき、オタワに住んでいました、素晴らしいところですね!オタワで冬のときはいっぱい雪がふていますよ!本当に楽しいです!

  3. Thank you for your visiting Japan.
    I envy you. Did you climb Mt.Fuji? To the top? Wow…

    I like Houtou, too. I think that we can eat Houtou with meat. I have ever eaten Houtou with boar meat. At the area they eat insect, grasshopper, called “Inago”. It is very interesting and rear culture in Japan. In some restaurant serving Houtou, we can order grasshopper boiled in sweetened soy sauce, “Inago no tsukudani”. If you did not eat “Inago no tsukudani”, please try this next time.

    I am very happy to read that you enjoyed the adventure in Japan!

    Sorry for my poor English…

    Sincerely yours

    • Hello Dr T, thank you for enjoying my blog! We did climb Mt. Fuji but we could not reach the top because of a bad storm. We will try again next year!

      Houtou with boar meat sounds interesting, but I was very happy because the houtou had lots of vegetables! Many special dishes in Mie-ken, where I live, have a lot of meat and few vegetables, but I like vegetables! Also “Inago no tsukudani” sounds interesting, I will have to try it next time I visit Yamanashi prefecture!

      Thank you for your comment!

      •  Do you live in Mie prefecture, don’t you? Then, please visit Ise-Jingu, “伊勢神宮”, one of the most or “the most” important shrine in Japan. Ise city is a little bit far from Yokka-ichi city, but you can go there by one-day-trip, maybe. Ise-Jingu is certainly the source of Japanese culture, and maintains the culture. You will feel solemnity, silence, history and so on.

        I think we can also buy “Inago no tsukudani” at s souvenir shop in Yamanashi Prefecture. Concerning to this topic in the previous comment, I made a mistake…(-_-メ)…I should spell “rare” instead of “rear”.

        I read your article-in-Japanese in this bolg. It’s very nice. How long have you studied Japanese? I think your Japanese is almost perfect!! Compared to your Japanese, my English…(-_-メ)…I must study English harder.

        Thank you for your reply. Please do not use your time to reply to my comment.

        Sincerely yours,
        Dr T.

  4. As the saying goes…what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Sounds like you all had an amazing adventure. I’m feeling very hungry now 🙂

    • True true, but that saying is never very comforting in the moment :/ Thanks for stopping by our blog! Come visit and you can taste the food for yourself! ;D

  5. Yummy for the tummy is a great remedy to such disappointment. What a wonderful view of fujui-san’s culinary delights. Good writing genkiduck.

  6. A little Japanese pun one of our friends came up with to explain our disappointment.

    Yamanashi-ken wa hontou ni Yama nashi ken.

    ‘Nashi’ means both ‘pear’ and ‘without,’ depending on the kanji. So in this case, Yamanashi-ken (山梨県 /’mountain pear prefecture’) can be changed to 山無し県, which basically means ‘a prefecture without mountains.’

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