7 August 2010
We were in bed by about 8:00 the night before but at around 2:00am I woke up to the sounds of tent flies being flapped in the air and blue and orange flashes of light in every direction. It had been raining so in my haze I thought maybe the multicoloured lights were lightning and the flapping sounds were the flies blowing in the wind. Turns out the flapping sounds were the flies being shaken in the air to remove rain water and the lights were from the numerous stoves being lit to make early, early, early morning tea.
Finally realizing that these people were getting up to watch the sun rise over the mountains, and not being concerned with seeing that ourselves, we went back to sleep. We woke up again at 5:00 and decided to catch up to the early birds. When we drew back the flaps of the tent we saw that nearly half of the tents that were there the night before were gone. The mountain was going to be crawling with people.
The people you see above were a group of high school students we passed on our way to the top of Tateyama. There was a group about two times the size of this one that we got on the trail ahead of by about 5 minutes when we left in the morning. There were also numerous groups of elderly people that numbered from 10 people to 30 people. It was crazy.
We made it to the top in good time since most of the sunrise viewers were back down from the peak. Unfortunately it was quite cloudy when we reached the top so the view wasn't great.
Up to this point 3003m was the highest I had ever climbed. I was pretty pleased to have climbed that high, but it was easy in comparison to the climb to the top of Yarigatake. We only had to ascend 600m to get to the top of Tateyama. In 3 days we would have to ascend 1100m to reach the top of Yarigatake, and at a much steeper pitch.
It only took two hours to ascend and then descend Tateyama and get back on the trail, and we only had 4 hours to go from the base of Tateyama to our next camp, so the second day of our trip was pretty easy. There was a lot of アプダウン though according to the sign we saw shortly past the base of Tateyama. Pronounced a-pu-da-oo-n, it took me a few minutes to figure out that it meant "up-down." The sign was a caution that the next several kilometers of the trail were up-down sections. I would have rather not known that from where we were to camp was a lot of up-down since I hate going down hill. But it only took 4 hours to complete and we got to camp early in the afternoon so we had time to relax and talk to the only other foreigners in the camp.
We saw Al and Holly when we went to fill our water bottles at the camp. We stared at them for a while and they stared at us for a while because it's uncommon enough to see other foreigners in large cities here; it's downright rare to see other foreigners on hiking trails. After setting up our tent we went over to introduce ourselves.
Al and Holly are British lawyers working in Tokyo. Al had been in Japan for 5 months and Holly for one. Apparently she drags him on these kinds of expeditions regularly - they've been hiking in the Himalayas and all over Northern Great Britain. They had been hanging out at camp since 11:15. They had taken a night bus from Tokyo and got into the camp we were sleeping in around 5:00am. They skipped climbing Tateyama because it was a "Crocodile line from the bottom to the top," according to Holly (I don't know what a crocodile line is but I understood what she meant), so they only had the 4ish hour hike to do.
We talked about life as foreigners in Japan, which is a topic that can never really be exhausted. Everyone has stories that are interesting to even the most seasoned foreigner living here. Holly is a vegetarian and she told us about how the Japanese don't consider chicken to be meat. We knew this already from experiences our friend Grace has had but it's still funny to hear about. A lot of the time if you ask a waiter "Does this have meat in it?" they'll say "No, just vegetables and chicken." Apparently Holly has this problem frequently and with varying degrees of derision towards her by the waiters when she tells them she doesn't eat any meat - even chicken.
We haven't been able to figure out why chicken isn't considered meat. It's possible that chicken is classified as a non-meat for Japanese vegetarians the same way fish is classified as a non-meat for some Western vegetarians. Another mystery I'll have to solve before we leave.
We talked for about an hour before heading off to make dinner and relax for the afternoon. This would be the only day of the trip where we'd have much spare time, since the remaining days would be more difficult in terms of terrain that would be covered, distance covered, and time spent hiking. Al and Holly were following the same route we were so we agreed to meet up at the next camp but we only ended up seeing them one more time - at the half-way point the following day.