2017-02-25

Sea of Trees to Summit Part 3: Climbing Mt. Fuji through Aokigahara Forest (青木ヶ原樹海)

Here is the 2nd video (of 2) of our Aokigahara to Mt. Fuji hike:
 


 
 
(continuing from Part 2 of my write up of the trip...)
We woke up, had our breakfast of champions...


...took a few pics of the 5th Station of the Fuji-Yoshida trail..









...filled out a supposed-to-be-post-hike survey about why we refused to pay the for-now voluntary fee to allegedly 'Help keep Mt. Fuji clean" (the bathrooms are disgusting, so it sure as hell isn't being spent to hire people to clean them properly) in order to get a free bottled water, and we were on our way.








Typical trail surface of the mountain...


...other than the areas where you are literally climbing over large rocky outcroppings and boulders, such as this:




Passing through and above the cloud layer...





 Just a bit more of this wee little hill to climb...

  
As it approached the early evening, the moon paid us an early visit...

  
Clouds rolled in in the evening, despite being well above the usual cloud layer...

Ironically, we...a U.S. Marine Corps vet (me...thus the "Devil Dog" part of this blog's name) and an Army vet team, found this hanging on the wall of the mountain hut we stayed at:




...and afterwards, I found the video of the team that signed it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4mGjGuWwSA


It pleased me to see that the USMC team didn't care about the shitty weather they experienced, sucked it up, and made it to the top, whereas the Army team... 😭

 However, after getting some sleep in the 8th Station mountain hut for about 7 hours, *our* Marine/Army team woke up around 12-ish, and joined the long line of climbers aiming to get to the top before sunrise. There were so many on the trail that we often had to wait for people to move higher up in order to continue. Despite the traffic, we made it with plenty of time to get ready to video (me) and photograph (Victor) the sunrise. Check out his much better/higher quality pics here at Frame of Travel






  After taking video of the sunrise and the above still pics, we gathered up our stuff to go find a place to crash for a couple hours before hiking back down. Around this time I managed to *again* drop my phone, but did not notice it till about 25-30 minutes later. I doubled back, asked at every shop and at the shrines if it had been turned in, but no luck.

Fortunately for me I was smart enough to add a "If you find this phone, e-mail me @" message to the lock screen the day I bought the phone, and the non-Japanese person that found it contacted me and sent it back to me C.O.D. so that it was back in my hands by Friday, 5 days after I lost it. Only in Japan. 


2017-02-19

Sea of Trees to Summit Part 2: Climbing Mt. Fuji through Aokigahara Forest (青木ヶ原樹海)

...and back into the heart of the forest we dove:




   And found holes...BIG holes. In this area (south east of road 71/northwest quadrant of Mt. Fuji's base) there were several large caves and holes, seemingly in much more abundance than near the Lava & ice caves.





Whatever this root curled around obviously came out the loser in what was likely a years-long fight for survival...

   Based on the shape, I think this should be called Jabba the Cave. This is connected to a 2~3 km long cave.




   Some creepyness here. I wonder who and why(??!?) did someone (...or something?) feel the urge/need to look for several softball-sized rocks and pile them up like this...

...and I hope this lonesome hat we found on the trail was dropped by accident, not because the owner had no use for it (and life in general) anymore. Either way, we left it where it was... 

After having gotten off the trail earlier in the day, it was good to know we were back on the right path...





A somewhat seemingly oddly placed tree(?) farm, where we took a break to eat and rest.


    Here we crossed under the Fuji Subaru (*which means 'constellation', not 'Japanese car maker') Line toll road.



   This map, unlike Google Maps, clearly shows the trail we mostly took after turning off of 71. 

   The only wide open space we saw until...



...we reached the 5th station, got some food, had a celebratory beer...

...then laid down, outside at first, then later inside the rest/vending machine area, to get some much needed sleep.

2017-02-10

Sea of Trees to Summit Part 1: Climbing Mt. Fuji through Aokigahara Forest (青木ヶ原樹海)

Having done a Sea-to-Summit climb on Mt. Fuji in 2015: 




...my bro and hiking partner  (Be sure to follow him here:  Frame of Travel and here Frame of Travel on Instagram) came up with the idea for 2016's Mt. Fuji climb to start from a "sea" of a different sort. Instead of starting with our bare feet in the Pacific ocean like we did in 2015, we would start from the "Sea of Trees" ('Jukai' 樹海 ) of Aokigahara (青木ヶ原)  forest lying at the Northwest sector of the base of Mount Fuji. Challenge accepted!

Judging by the lack of videos, blog posts, web pages, etc. documenting a similar route, it would seem that my video (1st of 2) of our trip:




....and this blog post are the first to attempt to document climbing Mt. Fuji with Aokigahara AKA 'The suicide forest' as the starting point. From having done this a few times now, I have learned that it is rather difficult for me to hike and take decent video/give running commentary at the same time. When we are hiking our primary focus is on reaching our intended destination, not on making the perfect video, so this blog entry will fill in some of the gaps in the video coverage of our hike.

   I think that it is highly unlikely that we are
 the very first to have gone this way, as it is seems like an obvious variation on climbing Mt. Fuji for the adventurous sort. However, I also realize that most Japanese are too creeped out by the area's reputation to do what we did, and that Aokigahara has not come to international attention until recently thanks to Hollywood's shitty cash grab "The Forest" (saw it; inaccurate as is to be expected from Hollywood, and just unscary as a horror movie) and "The Sea of Trees" (haven't seen this one yet as of 2017/02/19) so this is perhaps the first time this particular route has been documented. So here we go...

   We started our trip late Thursday night, arriving by my car at around 22:30 at the parking lot of the Fugaku Lava Cava (AKA the Wind Cave) free parking lot here, where we found that
you can always find Engrish in Japan, even in the middle of the "Sea of forest"...


   We prepped our gear and headed into the woods, passing one of the many suicide prevention signs in the area:


Translation: "Life is a precious gift from you parents
Calmly think one more time about your parents, your siblings, your children
You are not alone. Before (you act) please seek counseling.
"
-- Contact --
Fuji-Yoshida Police department, Suicide Prevention Association


   Our initial plan was to sleep over night in...Yes I said IN the woods, but after hiking about 15 minutes into the forest, it became clear that the only decent flat spot to set up the tent that we could see (it was pitch black without our headlamps on) was on the trail itself, which would have been a highly-frowned-upon dick move, so we headed back to the parking lot and slept in my car. We got up the next day and began our hike.



   Growing literally on top of a lava flow that covered the area in the year 864, with no real soil to grow down into the plant life that managed to eventually re-populate the area, the forest floor is a dangerous tangle of twisted tree roots, rocky outcroppings, and volcanic holes that range in size from mere ankle-breaker to full-on cave hundreds of meters long.







   We hiked in a loop, aiming toward the wind cave. Coming from the back side, we inadvertently ended up 'gate-crashing' the place and thus avoiding paying the entrance fee... (o_O)






   This happened once I came out of the cold icy cave and back into the humidity of the forest...

   On the way out we fessed up and paid the entrance fee, although the lady seemed more than willing to let us slide.


   Coming out of the Wind Cave, we decided to pick up the trail head from Road 71 to save time instead of trail blazing through the woods (although a post-hike review of the rout we took showed that it would likely have been faster if we had taken the main trail that runs from the Lava cave to Road 71). As we departed, we checked this out real quick:





Sunflowers on the main road (called "National Roads" in Japanese "Kokudō" 71:




While walking along road 71, we stopped and horsed around for few minutes...



   A 'Yorishiro' (依り代) we found along 71 at the edge of the woods. I found this a bit creepy, actually, given the reputation of the area...


   As we were walking along 71, an Oyaji (an "older guy" roughly translated) in a small truck pulled over, got out and came over to talk with us. The writing on the side of his truck showed that he was one of the 'suicide watch' volunteers that talks with people they find in the area to try and dissuade people from offing themselves. In a friendly manner he asked where we where headed (Us: "To the top of Mt. Fuji!" Him: "Sugoi!!"), asked if we had a map, and let us know how much further we had to go until we reached the trailhead, which was quite helpful, since we were starting to wonder if we had passed it. I didn't get pics or video, because my camera was stowed at the time, Japanese tend to be camera shy if it is not them taking the shot or not knowing where it will end up, and he only spent about 2-3 minutes with us before he was off to chat with others to try and stop the growth of more 'strange fruit' hanging from the trees of Aokigahara.

   We found the trailhead, exactly where he said it would be...(Continued in Part 2)