Wednesday, August 26, 2015

colors of japan

I found a weekend of pictures from spring that I never blogged!! eek.  How could that have happened?! I hate super late blogging because I'm not nearly as excited about the pictures as I was when it happened- and I can't remember my favorite details- but I'll do my best!

Shifunekannon reminded me of a Dr. Suess book. It was incredible. It never ceases to amaze me when we can walk into such an incredible display of nature right in the middle of a concrete jungle.  This place is literally giant bowl of hydrangea bushes and shrines plopped in the middle of a hugely and densely populated city.
 The views from every angle are wonderful.
 this is from the bottom center of the bowl.


 I had the most delicious blueberry yogurt softoo creamoo here.  What will our kids do when there aren't ice cream cones at every stop when we move back to the states?!
I love this picture of the ice cream worker helping the older ladies pick out their flavors.

we also visited ashikaga sometime in spring :)   It was a decent drive- but pretty beautiful.  Driving AWAY from tokyo is always pretty relaxing and beautiful so we don't mind going a little further to get places.  Heading towards tokyo is almost always a bit crazy and/or stressful!  Traffic is one of my least favorite things in the whole world.

Ashikaga has some of the hanging wisteria that japan is so famous for.  I preferred the truffula trees and dr seuss bushes to this place!   Botany is my least favorite branch of biology.  I find it rather boring. But- the flowers were beautiful- just not all that exciting.

so- here are a bunch of pictures I felt obligated to take since I paid so much to go into the gardens.  It cost us something like 5xs as much as shiofunekannon.


 Our kids did have fun adventuring around.


 this place killed me.  It was a giant dome of flowers. and chairs in front of the dome so you could watch them.  Watch them do what- I'm not quite sure,


 The resting yard was also pretty fun.  Our kids had a lot of fun running around it and he japanese enjoyed watching them.


 these flowers are pretty awesome looking.



 Our boys nearly took a spill into the murky waters here.  at least they were having fun :)
 and kakigori to finish off our day.

 on our drive home- we passed a river draped by carp flags!  it was pretty awesome looking.  these pictures don't really show just how big these fish were or how many there were!!

 but I LOVE this picture of metta!  her dirty little nose is the best part.
 there's a spring holiday (kodomo no hi) in japan where they hang giant carp flags from trees and across rivers.  I really want a giant collection of carp flags- but Kent doesn't seem to think we need them.



 Some of the flags are easily 12 feet tall!!




Monday, July 27, 2015

富士山 Fujisan!!


Oh, Fuji-san.  
This past weekend we hiked Mt, Fuji!  the active volcano!!
I've got quite the Japan bucket list and Fuji was definitely at the top!
the entire experience was quite the adventure!  I'd heard reviews about fuji ranging from the best Japanese experience to the very worst.  I LOVED it.  It was amazing.  and definitely one of the highlights of Japan thus far.  Kent may not agree.  He developed pretty rotten altitude sickness and was miserable most of the hike up!

Here is where we started the ascent.  It makes fuji look like a dwarf mountain.  It is HUGE. more than 1/3 the height of Everest.  Luckily you take a bus up part of the way and don't start from the very bottom.
the beginning of the trail is green and gorgeous.
and not very steep at all.  this is about an hour into the hike where things were still good  and those are real smiles:)  we bought that giant staff at the bottom and you get it 'stamped' with hot iron stamps along the stations on the mountain.  It's the most expensive part of fuji :) But- we HAD to buy one.  The staff itself is only about 10.00 dollars- but EACH stamp costs 300-400 yen (3-4 dollars) and there are 20+ stamps!!


japan is far more beautiful than I ever imagined.  I love the mountains here!!

This picture is right about where the altitude started to get to kent.  The picture shows several of the 'stations'on Fuji.  They are spaced throughout the the mountain so that hikers can take breaks and try to acclimatize to the air.  They look ridiculously close together in this picture- but they are much further apart than they appear. it takes HOURS to get through them all!  even with only a couple minute stops!

 Once you pass 6000 or 7000 feet- all vegetation is gone.  I guess volcanoes aren't prime places for survival. It felt like we were walking on the moon! only the moon was very very steep.  Luckily the weather was AMAZING.  The heat index was over 100 down at sea level- but up here - it was cool and refreshing.  Perfect for hiking. We'd started the day at sea level- and ended it at 12,389 feet.  That's a big change in altitude.  and apparently why Kent was nauseous, pale as a ghost, and miserable. 
apparently most people feeling as crappy as he was feeling- turn around and descend.  But kent wasn't about to give up.  and I certainly wasn't going to let him.  I think at one point we saw a sign telling us we had 82 minutes left and I reminded him that's how long I spent hunched over in sitting fetal position getting poked with a giant needle trying to get an epidural while dilating from a 5 to a 10.  and THEN I still had to have a baby withOUT drugs,  He just had to get to the top and he could lie down. I was trying to motivate him :) I really did feel so bad for him.  I could tell he was miserable.  Altitude sickness is the real deal.
The views were spectacular.  The hardest part of the day for me was trying to convince myself that not having my nice camera wasn't the end of the world ;)  these pics are all taken on my cell phone and point and shoot.

parts of the climb were over jagged pieces of old lava rocks.  It was so much fun.  and broke up the monotony quite a bit.  It usually takes climbers 6-8 hours to reach the summit.  We made it in 5.5. I think that's one of the reasons Kent didn't feel great.  He's prone to car/motion sickness (remember when he threw up on a  roller coaster at Cedar Point in Ohio?!) and we should have known to follow the advice to take longer breaks at stations to acclimatize.  The problem was the altitude affect me at all and I have a hard time with going slowly and taking breaks :)

Here's a picture that better shows the distance between stations.  Lots of very steep switch backs. they really were exhausting.

here's a view from the top of some of the switch backs.  seeing just how teeny the people are makes me realize how long and steep the hike was.


and one more pic from one of the stations looking down to the one far below.

I think this was the 8th station.  the top is the'10th station'.

I have no idea how this snow was still there.  we were in t-shirts and not cold at all!  I'm sure this stuff will be melted in the next couple of weeks.
the two Japanese people on the ground were out COLD.  all along the trail there are people sleeping because of the thin air and exhaustion!  
 i think this is station 7.
I think these two people are japanese monks or priests!  I don't know how they looked so clean still!
I really do enjoy doing hard things.  Getting closer and closer to the top was pretty exciting!  
I'm pretty proud of myself and Kent :)  I love that we could do it together and I love that he loves adventure as much as I do!!  I love living in Japan.  The excitement is endless :)

to top of fuji was a little chilly because of the wind and our sweaty bodies!!  we hunkered down in a hut and drank canned hot chocolate and shrimp and seafood cup noodles!  I didn't touch the noodles.  
we shopped around at the little booths up top= checked out the giant crater- and rested a bit!
this guy had the best priced water on the summit!  only 4 dollars for a bottle. his coke zero was 5 dollars, though :)
I actually am coming to really enjoy the fact that everywhere we go in Japan is busy!  there are always so many great people to meet and have fun with!!
and I still love feeling like a celebrity a little bit.  Several hikers asked to take pictures with our group :)


the hike down was a BEAST. oh my goodness.  It's a different trail than the way up.  there are no stations and it's just straight down the volcano. 
see the hikers walking straight- and then suddenly taking a left STRAIGHT DOWN?!

 Here I am at the same junction.  That spot to my left is the trail down!!!  we seriously moguled down with our poles.  Just jumped and slid side to side.
about 1/3 the way down- the terrain turned to mars instead of the moon! can you imagine tripping and going down the side of this volcano?! It has to have happened at some point.  you wouldn't stop until the bottom. Guaranteed death! I'd rather fall out of an airplane and enjoy the fall before I died!

and we got to hike through some clouds!
Here's the one station on the descent just in case you need to use the bathroom! and thanks to the crazy downward jumping- our bladders were ready to be emptied!!  bathrooms cost 200 yen. and you have to pack out your garbage!  Doesn't it look like you will just fall off the earth here?!



we were well prepared for the hike thanks to friends and the base outdoor rec department.  I have a friend who worked on fuji for years and let me borrow her rain jacket and pants (never needed the pants!) and her fabulous backpack- and then we rented boots, gaitors, and poles from outdoor rec.  The poles and gaitors (covers the tops of your boots) SAVED us on the way down.  People without them took a lot longer than us and ended up with rocks in their shoes and burnt out knees!
I did roll my ankle pretty bad on one of my mogul runs!  it hurt pretty bad so  I sat and rested for a minute and took this great picture! the rocks beneath my feet make up the trail down.  have I mentioned how steep it was??

Our trip down took us about 3.5-4 hours!  it was not my favorite part of the hike!!  so monotous and exhausting.  By the time we reached the bottom I just wanted to rip off my boots, change my clothes, and lie down!!
It was the best day. and I'll take you to the top if you want to come and visit!!  I survived Mt. Fuji and loved it!!
These aren't my pictures (one is free from a fan page- the other is a stock photo) but they do some justice to the magnitude of this mountain!  Unless you see fujisan up close and personal- you just can't understand her magnitude!!