Climbing Fujisan with AFS student Ryoji
Goraiko (sunrise) from summit of Fujisan
When I was in high school, we took part in a program called the American Field Service (AFS), and twice, we had the privilege of hosting a foreign exchange student for a year within our house.
One of the students, Eduardo, is from Costa Rica; the other, Ryoji, from Japan. In both cases the experience and students were wonderful. Over the course of a year living with the students, they become an integral part of the family and became brothers to me rather than people from another country.
As such, when I went to Nepal in 1993, I managed to visit Ryoji and his wife in Tokyo for a few days on the return.
As the plane left Narita airport, I was treated to a magnificent view of Fujisan. Somewhere, I remember hearing that everyone should climb Mt. Fuji (Fujisan) at least once in their lifetime, and I vowed that if I ever returned to Japan, I would make true on this.
About a year ago I contacted Ryoji and told him that I was planning to go to Korea and would love to stop in Japan to see him as well as his wife and two daughters. I told him that I also wanted to see the sunrise from Fujisan's summit, and was pleasantly surprised when he said he'd like to join me for the trip. The pictures above are from our experience.
Many of the hikes that I do are alone. I tend to wake up early and go trailhead to summit and back in a single push. Although this could be done on Fujisan, most of the people who climb it set off at noon or so one day and hike to one of a number of mountain huts where they spend the night. At an early hour, they arise and hike in a lengthy mass of humanity to the summit, reaching it in time for the sunrise. We did the hike in this traditional way.
Reaching the crater rim, Ryoji told me that there is actually a Japanese word (goraiko, 御来光) that refers specifically to the sunrise as seen from the summit of Fujisan. The following pictures show the goraiko that we were fortunate enough to witness.
The highest actual point on the mountain is on the far side of the crater rim from where the most popular trail reaches it. At a casual pace, taking in the sights, it takes approximately an hour or 90 minutes to circle the rim.
After our circuit, we descended back down to his car for the return to Tokyo, taking in a soak in a local hot spring along the way.
(originally published at SummitPost.org on Aug. 3, 2011)