Fuji – she watched every step of our ascent
Catching glimpses through the branches of hemlock fir & Japanese cypress
Our breath catching at every glimpse of her magnificence
A gurgling canal winding past country homes. Glimpses of tatami rooms with their latticed bamboo and paper shōji, visible through open windows welcoming the crisp air. Japanese Holly, trimmed as neatly as bonsai, poking above every garden. An unassuming beginning to our hike up Mt Mitsutogue.
A Shiba Inu puppy ran alongside us, smiling, without breaking stride as we stopped to rest on a bench in the too-cold shade of a tiny log shelter.
A solitary hiker, content in the present, gave us a map so that we could see how much further we had to climb (soon, we too stopped checking).
The climb, the view: breathtaking.
88 buddhas face the mountain of abundance, Ojizo-sama wearing beanies and bibs from parents protecting their lost children.
We watched water drip languidly through the hollow centre of icicles, and heard our treading footsteps dissolve into the muted crunch of snow…
… slipping up the mountain’s silky blanket.
Unprepared for the blinding snow, unprepared for this captivating scene; but we could not have planned the tingling warmth that flushed our numb cheeks, nor the vigilant anchor that held our footing in slippery shoes, each time we noticed our impossible surroundings between gasps for breath during the last steep stretch to the summit.
Frozen in place by more than just the Winter air at 1785 meters. Snow-capped and – have I mentioned? – breathtaking.
A mesmerising 360 degree view. We took photos until our fingers were too frozen to press the shutter.
Then came the descent – slipping through quiet Winter wonderland in a race against sunset. Realising that, distracted by our surroundings, we’d gone the wrong way.
Picking our way down windy road, relieved as the thick sheet of snow became worn and patchy. As the sun began to set, and the air neared 0, we stuck out numb thumbs helplessly at the only two cars that passed us – all five seats filled.
At the mountain’s base at last, yet hours away from the train station that sat by the lake glimmering in the last light of day. A single light at the only building in sight – we knocked on the door, and a woman answered – “Tea?” and gestured inside.
We tried to explain our situation in apology and hand gestures. In broken English, we were introduced to the teahouse which we had stumbled upon, to her husband, to all of the furniture that he had built with his bare hands, to their loyal companion.
Sitting beside the magical mountainside, warming our hands on cups of fragrant green tea with herbs – the names of which we couldn’t catch. Exchanging stories with our charming hosts until the bus (that we hadn’t known existed) arrived 40 minutes later. They watched us watch the road for the late bus, and waved us off once we finally boarded.
And Fuji – she watched us thaw on heated train seats the whole way back to Tokyo.