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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Photo Posting test

mon beau passport


Let's see if this works correctly.

Fuji Report

If you just want to see the Flickr set, go here.

The rest is a bit of talky-talky with picture links inserted. I think I found a way to get around the recently crappified iPhoto lock-down of not being able to physically manage one's own photos via the desktop.

I find myself second guessing what people are expecting to hear about my trip. I have the idea that people are expecting a super cool tale full of adventure and entertaining anecdotes. I don't know how people will feel after reading this. Then again, this was about having my own experience and I did have my own experience. If someone wants cool stories, then maybe they should make the trip for themselves.

This is not about a daring adventure. This is about emotion and insight; about being quiet, keeping the eyes open to observe, and the mind open to examine. This is a story about wanting to see something big, loud, and beautiful – not to change my life, but to add to it.

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I first had the idea of making the trip to Fuji just over two years ago. I was going to be turning 35, I would have recently ended a three-year run working on a touring stage show for Feld Entertainment and I thought it would be cool to use some of my money from touring to have a cool experience. I had caught the bug for international travel back in 2000 when I went to Germany on my first trip outside of the country. Now I had been blessed enough to have had two different touring jobs: one that that had taken me back and forth across the United States of America by train, and another that had taken me to countries around the world I had only dreamt about visiting.

A few weeks before the proposed trip, I canceled it. I was in the worst emotional slump that I had ever been in my life after a breakup with not much for resolution or closure. I needed stability. I needed dependability. I needed something that could be understood. I needed familiarity and I needed friends who weren't going to bail when things got rough and Greg showed weakness. And man, did I feel weak and vulnerable. I felt that it was better to stay home and dive into exercise more, be with my family, dive into a regular yoga practice, and work on getting myself back up to the Twin Cities to continue my life in performing.

I didn't think Fuji was the place to go to heal while I was embarrassing myself on a massive scale and being erased from someone's history. The ability to be vulnerable and hurt was more of an inconvenience than the virtue people assured me that it was.

June 2010 found me returning to Japan to start my second contract as a clown with Kinoshita Circus. Once I received the schedule for Okayama, I noted that each month had one period each of two days off. I thought it might be a good opportunity to make the trip to visit Mount Fuji. Better yet, the period of two days off in a row for July were the two days immediately before my birthday. What luck!

A couple of weeks out, I was planning and researching and getting a lot of help from a pair of people on the show who had made the climb before. The morning of July 21 came and I left the circus lot with my backpack and camera, ready to take the train up north.

Personal Rail Car

Once I arrived at the Shin-Fuji shinkansen (bullet train) station, I headed to the information desk and learned that I had some time to kill. I bought some postcards of Mount Fuji and made a mad dash to the nearby post office to buy some stamps for the postcards, as I heard that there was a post box at the top of the mountain. That was good enough for me! I made it back to Shin-Fuji with five minutes to spare to catch the bus that would take me up Mount Fuji to the 5th station, where my trek on foot would begin.

It was a big soggy that afternoon on Mount Fuji, but that wasn't anything unexpected. The weather report mentioned light showers in the afternoon and that's exactly what we had. I bought my wooden stick to get stamped at the stations along the trail and began my hike up the Fujinomiya Trail: the shortest of the trails up Mount Fuji.

6th Station Sign

After only 15 minutes I reached my resting spot for the evening: a rest house at the 6th Station called Unkaisou Hut. They were excited to see me and to have my business, but they were also very genuinely nice people. Two of the employees spoke enough English that with their English and my Japanese, we pretty much bridged any gap. They showed me my room for the time I would be staying.

Digs for the Moment

Afterward, I took a few pictures, chatted some, and then began to write out and address 20 postcards, fueled by a hot bowl of curry udon. The other guy there at the hut was a guy who – if I understood correctly – has mountain biked up and down Fuji along one of the other trails.

Curry Udon

I wound up writing a little longer than I had hoped and didn't head upstairs to get some sleep until about 7:30pm. It was nice, quiet, and dark in my room and it was easy to lie there and just rest and breathe. I don't think I got to sleep until about 9 or 9:30. Next thing I knew one of the proprietors was waking me up. I was up at 10:45pm and had changed clothes and headed up the mountain at about 11:30pm.

Away I went. From the first step, it was worlds different from my trip to Machu Picchu. When I was there, I tackled the peak of Huaynapicchu and chugged along, trying to make it up and down in a time that blew away the average. I worked hard, I pushed, I scoffed at the out-of-shape people. I thumbed my nose at the average time. I never, ever wanted live my life in a way where I would be satisfied being average.

Fuji was different. My only goal was to get to the top and to get there in time to see the sunrise. Without thinking, it automatically became a matter of one foot in front of the other. Fuji was huge and I was alone. I just wanted to make sure I got to the top. Then I'd worry about getting to the bottom.

The first two legs (6th - new 7th station, new 7th to old 7th station) were the longest. They were also the least steep. On these legs I established my pattern and rules: I would always stop for water and a little bit of food at every station. I would stop at least once along each trail to rest, in addition to resting at each station. My goal was not to break a record, it wasn't to beat anyone to the top. My goal was to live the experience and have something to take home with me, and eventually to the grave.

At each station along the way, I kept encountering this guy and his dog who was making the climb with him.

Gong and His Dog

I spoke with him later, near the 6th station on the way down. He's a Chinese guy named Gong. This was his second time climbing up Fuji, the first time with his dog. He's a translator for the Yokohama Baystars, a Japanese major league baseball team. Each time he stopped, he would make sure his dog drank some water.

The 9.5th Station was the last before the summit. I could see the first pink light starting to spread across the east and as I looked behind me down the mountain, I could see the headlamps of many people behind me. The photograph doesn't really capture the number of lights or how impressive it looked.

Line of Lights 2

As I walked closer to the top, the pathway began to back up with people. Most of the holdup was due to people stopping to take a picture of the torii gate at the top where you officially "enter" the summit of Fuji. Once I reached the top, I took a moment to look around. Most of the people were heading to the eastern side of the crater to my right. However, I didn't come just to watch the sun rise, I came to watch the sun rise and stand at the highest point on Fuji. Off to my left was the very top of the summit and the weather observation station that stood atop it. It meant another 200 meter climb up very loose pumice and dirt, but I thought I would be rewarded. I didn't come to do this halfway.

I got there and had a few minutes to relax, to take some more pictures of the crater, and to look across to the east side. Soon, the tops of the clouds sprouted orange highlights and people were already jumping the gun, yelling "Banzai!"

My Post


Northern Crater Clouds


Waiting at the Summt


Pre-Rise


As the sun started rising, I alternated between squeezing off as many shots as I could and just watching with my own eyes. In the rush to switch lenses, my 18 - 55mm lens was damaged as it fell from a position in my bag that I thought was secure. Thankfully, I still was able to score some shots with that lens before the debacle and my other lens was working just fine.

George Harrison Song (Doot'n doo doo . . . )


Close Burn


Orange Mountain Majesty


Summit Standing


You may have heard the saying "A wise man climbs Fuji once, a fool climbs Fuji twice." I crossed paths with more than one fool. It was amazing and each was happy to be making this journey. This trip wasn't about bragging rights for me. It was only about getting there and getting back. I wasn't proving anything.

The greatest part of the venture was that it was one big metaphor. It didn't matter how quickly I was going to make it to the top, it only mattered that I did. And in order to do so, I had to make sure to take rests along the way and to move forward steadily and safely. I slipped some times, and other times I slowed down. But I kept going until the next resting point, then took my time to regroup, then started off again. On the way up, I was passed by some people and I also did some passing of my own. Each person or group worked at their own pace because the wonder of the experience was simply being on the mountain.

There would have been no advantage to getting to the top any sooner. I arrived there at just the right time, allowing me to have the exact experience that I had hoped to have and that some might say I was meant to have. Many people reached the top before I did, but that was okay. I didn't have to be the first or the tenth or the hundredth. I just had to get there and be there. For the duration of my trek up and down that mountain I was able to do something that I usually struggle with in my daily life: I was able to be fully present.

Leaving the Summit

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On a T-shirt

Of course I still haven't been doing this weekly, so here's a two-to-three week list again!

• Ice blue abide/ my dream is satisfied
• jeaning wear
• milk rich
• strong american
• highest laugh
• tough robust health
• cutie love earth
• enjoy angel style
• honey candy
• I like cake and candy
• guerilla gardening
• we are new British anthem
• earth saver
• fear is always worse than danger
• listen to the voice of the soul
• niceness
• do you get breath?
• what is believed is saved
• Dinosaur supreme ruler
• speaky
• make a perfect plan
• Say yes if you believe the love I feel in my heart
• King of street clothing/ Too cool to life
• dearly feeling music dance
• candy magic girl
• keep smile & stream
• Cowboy heaven breaking/The story of a deadman in an old western
• Love is free
• Love is life
• More than enough you shall die
• heavy feeder
• pride driving damege
• necessity/ all that counts in life is intention/remotion
• grandly real minority
• trip to hell montage
• BBQ chickens/Pizza of Death Records

Fuji

A week ago I took my trip to Mount Fuji. The goal was to hike up to the top so I could watch the sunrise. I haven't written my blog entry about it yet. I've just now had the time between work and stuff back home to satisfactorily mull it over in my head.

Watch this space.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Today's Slice of Japanery

I just realized that the song that was being played on a continuous loop in the produce department of the grocery store I use is a song about and promoting bananas. In almost every store I've visited in Japan, there is some type of promotional song being played somewhere in the store. They tend to make for really persistent earworms.

Secondly, I just ate a bag of fried chicken flavored potato chips.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lot Sweet Lot

This town (Okayama) we're right by a train station and a bunch of switch-over tracks. That means throughout the day and night I get to hear the sound of moving trains, which I absolutely LOVE.

I also get to hear the chirping of nearby frogs. I have nice sounds around my house.

On a T-shirt

Another two weeks'-plus worth of t-shirt quotes:

• F--- fashion, let's smoke menthols
• Challenge your looser never give up!
• I'm propelled by cheer
• Nevada born side winder
• Only enjoying living is worth of alive
• nice day expected to begin
• Hushush kind champion
• to scramble to the popcorn
• I love my homework?!? That's why I'm saving it for tomorrow!
• old fruit keeps long
• the pictures came out well
• Let's dance, rock your soul as you go
• I [heart] first girls
• over raps
• trouble for skinheads
• I [beetle instead of a heart] big beetle
• achieve thrill of creativity
• I don't know – your love please
• The soul breaks! Give God my regards, tell him thanks!!
• MAKEUP/like the god of death
• real ization/seeking dream go along
• Yosemite/Pink/pink is more than just a color
• heap on our Okayama
• Actually they always say that time changes things, but you really have to change them yourself

Snippets From My Life

I was just shaking out some laundry, looked up, and saw that one of the zebras had stopped and was looking at me. Is that cool and goofy or what?