And we drove. The distance from our hotel to north end of Mount Fuji was about 75 miles away; roughly about an hour and a half. As I mentioned in my previous post, the drive was worth every minute we spent in the for the spectacular views of Japan.
That, and we just dig road trips.
After seeing so many mountains, though, it had become difficult (for me) to figure out if we were near Mount Fuji or not. The GPS said we were (I mean, it WAS Apple Maps,) but I couldn’t see any difference in the mountains surrounding us. After scouting the surround area for a moment, Shannon’s demeanor suddenly changed and she looked really thrilled and then turned to me in the car.
“You need to look higher,” she said.
I looked up in the air and, though the clouds, I saw it. The peak of Mount Fuji. It was WAY up there. It was hard to not get more than a little excited at how big the mountain was, but I was still focusing on my road mantra in Japan.
“Left side of the road. Left side of the road. Left side of the road.”
We got off at the next exit and saw signs for the Mount Fuji Visitors Center.
We took time to go inside and (YES!) the staff spoke English. As a matter of fact, they asked if we would like to watch a short film about Mount Fuji in the center. They seemed excited that they would be able to show it to us with the English language track. Yay modern technology!
The film lasted about ten minutes and explained that the mountain was a dorment volcano and the effect that had on the local ecosystem. The film also showed footage of the annual climbing season that kicks off each summer. Shannon, of course, started her “if we ever come back” speech about returning during that particular time of year. After my adventure climbing out of the Grand Canyon, though, I was less than motivated to look into doing so.
After the film, we walked around the the museum inside the Visitors Center. Aside from the museum and upstairs restaurant, they had a gift shop that sold Mount Fuji merchandise: t-Shirts, pens, snacks, keychains… the usual fare. They even had Mount Fuji water.
For no reason whatsoever, I felt the need to take a photo of the squirrels on the signs pointing the way.
METAL SQUIRRELS OF AWESOME.
After writing some postcards and buying some souvenirs, we got in the car and started our ascent. According to the attendants working at the Visitors Center, the farthest we could drive up was the “fourth step” up the mountain (which turned out to be the fourth rest stop.) So we looked at the posted map:
Then we got in a car and started driving.