That was Beer said to me when I mentioned that I wanted to climb
Fuji-san back in 2006. It is a Japanese old saying about the person who
wanted to climb Fuji-san, or in English, Mount Fuji.

An idea to climb Mt. Fuji

Beer
once climbed Fuji-san during his JUSST period in 2002. “It was just for
experience”, he said. Although he made it to the top, he never really
wanted to climb Fuji-san again. “Once is enough, I am not a fool” he
said when I tried to persuade him to climb Fuji-san again. “But I can
give you some tips”. Lokman, former JUSST 2001 student who climbed it
before also refused when I asked him to join the climbing. “Sorry
Ronald, I will not climb it again. I will only climb it when my wife
wants to climb, and luckily she doesn’t want to climb Fuji-san”.

Planning

So,
the planning began. From Japan Guide website, I knew that Fuji-san was
only opened for climbing in summer, from 1 July to 31 August each year.
From the information there, it is understandable why it is only open in
that period. Climbing in other seasons would cost you your life, and
that is not a good idea for sure.

Apart from internet, I tried
to find information from JUSST senior. I contacted Reza, JUSST October
2004 student from Indonesia, and asked him his experience last year.
His climbing group was about 10 students, most of them JUSST students.
I also contacted several seniors to get more information and I get
interesting findings. “Ivo saw God in the top of Fuji-san”. “I will
never climb that mountain again”. “It is better to climb it at night”.
It is true that people can hallucinate when he/she is very tired, and
Ivo, JUSST student from Bulgaria, was one of them.

Persuading
friend to climb Fuji-san was not so easy. When I talked this idea to
other JUSST students from my year (October 2005), not all of them
interested. I can get only about five people interested. Luckily the
people who interested grew more and finally almost reach 20 students.
As usual, some of them decided few days before D-Day.

Then I
looked at the calendar. Summer holiday is from August 5th 2006 until
Sept 30th 2006. Official climbing season is July and August, so we had
to pick a day. Since I had my own personal reason, I chose to do night
climbing on August 11th and reached the top at August 12th and
celebrate my birthday in the top of Mt. Fuji. No body was objected with
the date I chose, it was holiday anyway.

Why night climbing?

The
first reason is “It is better not to see the path” just like Beer said.
“It’s ugly to see that mountain in day, it’s only looking good in your
postcard” he added. “It’s more beautiful to see the light of from other
climbers to light you way”.

The second reason is climbing in
day would mean you will have to deals with the heat and you arrive at
the top in the night. Then you have to go down in the dark. That is not
a good idea. The positive side in this part is you can see the sunset.

Third
reason is by climbing in the night you can arrive just before the
sunrise and see the sunrise. This is called by the Japanese Goraikou.
In my mind, it might be the same reason for people who want to see
sunrise in Mount Bromo.
The day finally came. It was the second
Friday in August 2005 and two days earlier I just came back from my
“Kanazawa Trip”. One day full rest and now I (hope) I am fully
recharged.

From Tokyo to Mount Fuji fifth station

We
gathered at Shinjuku Station (in Japanese Shinjuku Eki). The bus that
will take us to Fuji-san would depart from a terminal near Keio’s west
exit at Shinjuku station. Eight students from my batch (the seniors),
eight April 2006 JUSST student (the juniors), one sister of one of the
student, and one PhD student from International House were ready to
conquer Fuji-san. Totally, it was eighteen students.

Before
leaving, we tried to find oxygen in an adventure store near Shinjuku
station. We found it, cost 650 Yen. Then I bought a set of Mount Fuji
postcard (420 Yen) and 10 stamps (@ 80 yen). Why? I’d tell you the
reason later.

It was almost 5 PM when we leave the Shinjuku
west station. The journey took roughly 2 hours. Most of us were
sleeping, knowing that we wouldn’t have any privilege of sleeping once
we started our night climbing. We only woke up when we crossed
“Fujikyuu Highland”, which as (once) the highest roller coaster in the
world, Fujiyama, which has the same name as Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san or
Fujiyama).

You might confused, which one is correct, Fuji-san
or Fujiyama. Both are correct. The kanji mountain can be read “yama” or
“san”. Most of the mountains in Japan are called “yama”, only several
mountain are called “san”. Mt. Fuji can be called “Fuji-san” or
“Fujiyama”.

Arrival at Mt. Fuji fifth station

It
was already dark when we arrived at our destination, Mount Fuji fifth
station, or fuji gogome. For your information, there are five different
starting points to climb Mount Fuji, so there are five different fifth
stations. People who come from Tokyo (such as us) will arrive at
Kawaguchiko fifth station, and the ascending route from here is the
most popular one.

Preparation

Timing
is important. We need to reach the top at the right time, either not
too early (otherwise we will be freezing in the top of Fuji-san) or too
late (you will miss the sunrise). We calculated that it will take 5-7
hours to reach the summit. The sunrise will be around 4.30 AM (it was
summer). Looking at that time plus most of us were first timers, we add
an hour more, just a precaution that we would be tired.

At
that time we spent about one hour to prepare before starting to climb
Fuji-san. We did several things in the Mt. Fuji fifth station, changing
clothes, taking group picture. For using the toilet was charged (we
used it to change or clothes) for 50 yen. It is usually free. I forgot
to charge my cell phone and charged it in the toilet. It gave extra
life time for the phone.

On one of the shop, I found a “stamp”
(stempel in Bahasa) with Fuji-san picture on it and stamp my postcard
with it. It is not strange since every tourist places and stations in
Japan have stamp. It means “Hey, I’ve been here, see this stamp”.
Unfortunately, most of the places name in kanji or Japanese characters
so the meaning is only understandable for people who know how to read
it.

Ascending Path General Information

If
you imagine that climbing Mt. Fuji like climbing in the movies with the
cliff, etc, then you are wrong. The route was like a hiking route, but
it seemed to be an endless ascending route.

We started
climbing around 7.45 PM. We were divided into three groups. The first
group was the Mexican (Hugo, Nayeli, Nayeli’s sister, Eduardo),
Australian (Jullietta), and Thai (Aun). The second group, where I
belong was the “rest of the world”, Chinese (Miao, Xiaoxin, Ni Wei, Li
Yang, Song, Yu Ling), Indonesian (Ronald a.k.a myself), Indian (Ramesh)
and Italian (Massimo). The third group was the “Eastern European plus
Taiwanese”, Bulgarian (Poli), Yo (Taiwanese), Estonian (Dmitri) and
Russian (Dmitri’s friend). Actually there was the fourth group, several
Indonesian students. I only know two of them who are PhD students at my
host university.

It was my first time climbing “real”
mountain. Fuji-san is 3.776 meters, very high in my standard. I climbed
Takao-san (Mount Takao) nine months before but it was only a tiny
mountain about 500 meters, although it was tiring enough. The other
“yama” (mountain) I went to is only a city (Inuyama) or touristic place
(Yoshinoyama).

5th station to 6th station

Fuji-san
is divided into 10th station. The first is in the foot of the mountain
and the tenth is the summit. We, just like most climbers do, started
from 5th station which is about 2300 meters from sea level. The
ascending path from 5th station to 6th station was the easiest one
compared to the next part we would face. The path was not steep at all.
I was very sweating since I feel hot. I wore about 4 layers of clothes
and felt like I am in sauna. I was prepared for nearly zero degrees
temperature in the summit, but in the fifth or sixth station, it was
not that cold. The mark for this 6th station is a one meter sign that
look like very simple only with kanji roku (six), and gogo + me
(station) and the altitude 2390 m.

6th station to 7th station

6th
station to 7th station could be said moderate. We were still had energy
and have the passion. We still chat with each other. We found a place
to rest when we reach 7th station. The sign that marked that his place
is 7th station is quite big, about 2 meters. Additionally it had

My
friend were true when he said “In the beginning there will be many
chat, people will still have energy to chat, but the higher you are,
the more silent it is”. He was completely right. We were talking in the
beginning but we were silent after the seventh station. Most of us
tried to, literally, save our breath.

7th station to 8th station

From
7th station to 8th station it’s becoming more difficult since we more
get tired. We took many rests during our ascent. Furthermore, we took
picture every time we reach a station. So there are picture of us in
5th station, 6th station, 7th station and 8th station. Intermezzo. Good
news for the one who needed toilet. There is one in 7th station but it
will cost you 100 yen.

Since
I took my picture in every station, I can exactly write the time I
arrived at those stations. Now we can compare the actual time we took
with the time on the sign.

5th station (2300 m): 7: 44 PM (our starting point)
6th station (2390 m): 8.27 PM
7th station (2700 m): 9:21 PM
8th station: 10: 48 PM

8th station to 8.5th station

The
nice part of climbing Fuji-san, in every station there is a bench to
rest. In level 8th bench, we sat down for a while. At this place, Song
had his late bento dinner and the food shape was really a mess. Lesson
learned here, just bring onigiri (similar like lemper but the shape is
triangle or chocolate is better).

We
just look jealously for the people inside mountain hut from our bench.
It was warm there and we were tired and cold. Once we were told to be
quiet by the person in charge in one of the mountain hut. One way to
get the warmth was going inside the hut and then you have to pay.
Looking at the price, we just grumbled “why it is so expensive”

I
started to believe that you can find vending machine in almost any
place in Japan. I found one in 8th station. The price was quadrupled
(from usually 100 yen in normal vending machine to 400 yen in this
vending machine).

The ascending path from 8th station to the
9th station is the most frustrating part. Finding 9th station was our
main goal at that time. We were very tired. We took many rests and
short sleep by lying down a few minutes.

We began questioning
ourselves why did we climb this mountain. For me, I want to reach Mt.
Fuji for my birthday. So, I had to reach the top. I didn’t know when I
will come back to Japan again and if I come back, will I want to climb
Fuji-san?

During our ascent from 8th station to the next
station, exactly after 00:00 AM, I got a phone call. . Believe it or
not, in Japan, there was phone signal even in the mountain. I used AU
from KDDI and I still can receive phone call.

8.5th station onwards

We
haven’t found 9th station, but we found 8.5th station at 1.15 AM. This
is strange name. But for us whose brain was already stop working
properly due to tiredness and lack of sleep (actually no sleep), we’re
not realized that. According to the sign, its altitude is 3450 m.

We
met with Eduardo in this 8.5th station. His group left him since he was
not as fast as them. So, they said to him to join the second group (our
group). At this station one of us revieved a phone call and said “First
group already reach 10th station”. Good news and we’re still taking a
rest in 8.5th station.

Leaving
8.5th station, we were desperately tried to find 9th station. We
already didn’t care where to rest just lied down everywhere and try to
get a little sleep. I was already started to pull people who take to
much rest. You’ll hear it a lot “Please, five minutes more”. Song was
already “need help” condition. I gave him my oxygen since his oxygen
already run out. Yu Ling face was already sleepy as well as the other
students and Miao was sleeping in the sitting position. Not much
picture after the 8th station because we were so tired, even to take
picture.

At this time, I saw a Torii gate. (Torii gate is a
phi like gate that is functioned as entrance to Shinto temple). The
last thing I want to do was hallucinated (remember that Ivo the year
before claimed to see God in Fuji-san). I hope that it was real Torii
and we can take a rest in bench in that temple.

There was no
temple, but I saw a big “monument” and a girl. I asked (in Japanese)
“how far is it to the 10th station?”. She replied “it is 10th station”.

Reaching 10th station

I
was so excited and then shouted to my other group members. “We had
reached the top”. It was like a boost for their morale and physical
condition. As a tradition for us, we take the picture in every station
sign. It was 2:44 AM. We spent 7 hours climbed Fuji-san, still in the
range 5-7 hours as Japan-Guide website said.

Also at that time
I was confused how come we missed the sign for 9th station. The answer
was 8.5th station was the 9th station. Japanese believed that numbers
bring good/bad luck. Number 4 and 9 is considered as “bad number” so
they change it. The reason that made us will never find the 9th
station.

Group 1 vs Group 2 vs Group 3

I
found a restaurant there and got in. Inside the restaurant, members of
group one already sat and froze. Group one was the fastest among us.
They didn’t take many rest and just move on. They arrived at 1.15 AM,
one and a half hour prior to us. Confused how I can remember the time?
Because while writing, I am looking at Fuji-san climbing picture from
my camera and other students’ camera that contains the time and date
“Date Picture Taken”.

On the other hand, their speed (5.5
hours to reach the peak compared to us 7 hours) came at a cost. Hugo
threw up just after reached the 10th station. When I saw the video made
by Aun, Hugo’s face was very pale and the other Mexican (Nayeli, her
sister and Raul) were freezing. Jullietta was also freeze. They have to
wait and freeze until 4.30 AM (sunrise time).

Hugo brought his
Mexican flag with him to Fuji-san. He used it to cover his back so that
every person will know that “He’s a Mexican”. Jullietta found a climber
wearing green “Godzilla” (or dinosaur) costume on the bench outside the
restaurant. It was hilarious. Everything can happen in Japan. He was a
gaijin or foreigner. Seeing a Caucasian wearing Godzilla costumes on
the top of Fuji-san probably wouldn’t appear at all in your mind.

Group
3 arrived at 3:37 AM (8 hours). Poli, Dmitri, his Russian friend, and
Yo were in this group. They were sometimes behind us and at the other
time they are ahead of us. Amazingly, Dmitri who came from Estonia only
wore one layer of clothes, just a thin T-shirt. I think the nearest
your country to the North Pole, the more resistant you on cold weather.
Poly was also the same. She wore only one layer of T-Shirt.

Restaurant at Top

Releasing
a lot of energy means that you need to replace it too. Fortunately
there was a restaurant at the top of Fuji-san. It’s better to go inside
and stay in a warm place rather than stayed outside the restaurant and
exposed you to nearly zero weather. A bowl of ramen (Japanese noodle)
was the price to get in. Compared to mountain huts we passed by before,
it is quite cheap and you got a bowl of ramen that cost you 800 yen. It
was very early to have your “breakfast” at around 2 AM but it was a
good offer after you get tired. You need to “recharge”.

Inside
the restaurant, I started to use my warm-“koyo” attached it to my skin.
It gave warmth and soon I began to “distribute” that useful thing to my
friends. Aun was still busy with his handy camera taking video of us.

Poli
showed up her face when some of us ate his/her ramen. Later on Dmitri
and his friend arrived. Wonderful. All of us had reached the top. It
was good news since usually there are several JUSST climbers who didn’t
make it. When Toman (JUSST Oct 2003, two years above me) climbed in
summer 2004, one of his group members has “knee problem”. So, they
turned back and went down and never reached the 10th station.

Surprise

Some
of us finally got his/her ramen and started to eat. I haven’t got my
ramen. A few moment after Poly’s group arrived and while I was waiting
for my ramen, suddenly Jullietta said “Everybody, we wanna say happy
birthday to Ronald, ichi ni san”.

Then they began to sing “Happy
Birthday song”. I didn’t know about this surprise party. I considered
it as “surprise” since I was surprised. In the middle of the night at
3700 meters above sea level, a group of students sang inside the
restaurant. I received my present, special presents. Later that day I
knew that Jullietta was the organizer of that surprise and the present.
Thanks Jules, thanks guys, I will always remember that.

That
made those two days, up to now, are the best birthday I’ve ever had in
my life. I have another good and nice birthday but the memory at that
time, spending birthday climbing Fuji-san, exhausted, frustrated
getting surprised in the top of mountain, and more things after that
will go on.

Sunrise

Goraikou is the Japanese word for it. It was our main reason to climb Fuji-san., seeing sunrise on the top of Fuji-san.

After
eating, we tried to find good spot to see the sunrise. It was still
dark but in less than one hour the sun would rise. So, we’d better
hurry.

At that time, we were lucky we arrived at the right
part of the crater. We arrived on the eastern side of the crater and
other people have to circle the crater to go to our side.

Most
of us were split, many climbers began to reach 10th station and it’s
getting more cramped. Even during this time there is “traffic” on the
mountain. Later I would know that Baskara’s group were stuck somewhere
between 8.5th station and 10th station because it was so crowded that
people has to stop climbing.

I found a nice spot to see the
sunrise. Aun was near me, preparing his handy cam to record the
sunrise. Most of JUSST students were in front of the restaurant, on the
bench. We were in a higher place than them and hopefully better view.

Seeing
goraikou would be an experience you’ll never forgot. A lot of people at
one side of crater and seeing the sun appeared slowly from the horizon.
It was very cramped. You would hear word sugoi a lot. After the sun
full rise, one Japanese started to speak, and all of the Japanese
started to yell “Banzai, Banzai, Banzai”. Somehow it reminded me of
suicide attack in World War II.

After the Sunrise

We
had light rain just after the sunrise. Most of JUSST students chose to
descent. They just wanted to get rest as soon as possible. Only me, Aun
and Poli stayed on 10th station.

Aun and I were dealt with the
morning call and the toilet was quite far, we left our “mark” somewhere
in the eastern part of crater. We found a tent near there and there
were adventurous people who camped at temperature nearly zero degrees.

Crater

It
was 5.30 AM but the sunlight was like about 7AM in western Indonesia
time. I found sign that has crater map on it. The highest point of
Fuji-san, 3776 m, was on the other side of the crater.

In the
day it is easier to look at your surrounding. Looking at Fuji-san’s
“environment”, you’d feel that you were in the moon. We’d be grateful
that we climbed it in the night so we didn’t see its path.

All
of us have agreement on one subject. It’s look better in the postcard
rather than on the mountain itself just like Beer said. It was very
windy and very cold. At that time Poli had an idea “I want to go down
into the crater, let’s find out whether is it possible”.

“Poli,
are you crazy?” Aun and I started to check Poli’s sanity. The last
Bulgarian student (Ivo) who climbed Fuji-san saw God. Poli is from
Bulgaria, so we just want to check whether she has no problem with her
mind or not.

We
walked towards the crater and looked below. “No way, it’s too much”.
Going down without proper equipment will cost you broken bones and we
didn’t have those equipments. Fortunately Poli agreed and we started to
encircle Fuji-san crater.

It was still light rain. I had given
my raincoat to Miao, and have no extra raincoat. Soon we used our
spared shirt to cover our face. Aun’s face and my face soon seemed like
terrorist member from Afghanistan head cover. With the surrounding
already similar with the movie Rambo III (when he was in Afghanistan),
Aun played as terrorist, Poli as the hostage, and I as the
photographer.

The highest post office in Japan

Post
office on the top of Mount Fuji, are you joking? No, it’s not a joke. I
was told by my seniors that there was post office in the crater. Many
climbers sent postcard to their home from this post office.

The
only difference between the postcards sent here was the seal was from
“Fuji-san Cho” while the one you sent at Fuji gogome (Fuji fifth
station) had the seal “Fuji-gogome”. Since this seal is in Kanji,
actually the recipients wouldn’t recognize the kanji on the seal.


I
sent about 10 postcards to my friends. Not much words in it, only a
“stempel” of Fuji-san image. There was line in front of the post office
and I had to get in line. So, for the one who received those postcards,
it was the story behind it. It was around 6:15 AM.

The summit – 3776 meters

We
were still walking again for about 30 minutes before we arrived at the
highest point of Fuji-san at 6.45 AM. It is 3776 meters above sea
level. There is a monument there with a kanji written on it that meant
“Japan highest point Fuji-san 3776 meters”.

Aun found a
blonde girl there and secretly videoing her. Poli knew what Aun was
doing and started to laugh. “Aun, we’re know what you’re doing”.

We
could get a Hinomaru (Japanese flag), borrowed from a kind Japanese
guy. We also get someone to take the picture of us on Fuji-san summit.
Our mission was done and now it’s the moment to go back to the
restaurant and after that descent.

At that time it was already
11 hours passed since we started our climbing (we started climbing 7.45
PM the day before). Lack of sleep and tired made us got headache.
Panadol was our savior. I brought 12 panadol tablets and at the summit
it only 2 tablets left. Poli and Aun got the last two tablets since
they started to get headache again.


Some of our videos can be seen here
http://www.youtube.com/user/f05ralex