Gaijin Smash

Man Vs Mountain

Posted in Blog by gaijinsmashnet on December 28, 2006

Gaijin Smash Original Content
I think I mentioned in the Bathing Gaijin editorial, I’m no longer all hung up about being naked in public. It really only took me almost dying a horrible, miserable death to cure me of my modesty. Considering how expensive good counseling is these days, I think I got a bargain.
In September of my second year in Japan, the Kyoto JET’s organized a trip to climb up Mt. Fuji.
Now, I’m not much of an outdoors man. I’ve only been camping once in my life, and pretty much the entire time I regretted not bringing my Gameboy along (camping trips IS why the Gameboy was invented, wasn’t it?). But as I had a lot on my mind at the time, I figured scaling a mountain would be a good way to take my mind off things, and get to know my fellow Kyoto JET’s a little better.
It was a wonderful idea, and as many wonderful ideas are prone to have one fatal flaw, this one was no exception. September is typhoon season in Japan.
As we got on the bus to head to Fuji, it was already overcast and starting to drizzle. The trip organizer was wondering if the bad weather extended all the way up to Fuji, so I checked the weather service using my cell phone – the forecast was a 70% chance of rain. “So that means there’s a good chance it’ll rain, huh?” She asks me.
Allow me to explain a little something about the Japanese weather service. “30% chance of rain” usually means that we’re going to get absolutely shit on. Like, grab the really big umbrella, or else you’re going to look and feel like a Frosted Flake you’ve let sit in the milk for more than 10 minutes. A 70% chance of rain?! Phone ahead to Ariel and Sebastian, because we were going to be their guests under the fucking sea.


Nevertheless, we pressed on to Mt. Fuji.
It was raining quite steadily as we arrived. We rushed into the gift/supply shop for cover, and to buy additional supplies. I found a plastic raincoat, which, much like the other Japanese “raincoats”, proved too be much too small to be of any use. I did my best to squeeze into it anyway, as it provided about as much protection as a couple of Ziploc bags taped together. Add that to my “hiking” attire of a sweatshirt and jeans (I told you I wasn’t the outdoorsy type), and I was fully prepared for everything up to and including a gentle picnic on a warm summer day.
After a while, the rain eased off, and our guide decided that we could start our trek. But see, this was merely God’s way of lulling us into a false sense of security. The torrential downpours from before were only the appetizer before the main course. Like the Bloomin’ Onion before you get that 30 oz steak. That’s not to say that climbing up a mountain during a typhoon is quite as enjoyable as a big juicy steak prefaced by a giant ball of onion-flavored grease, but they’re probably equally as bad for one’s health.
Many people who endeavor to climb Mt. Fuji do so by starting at night. The idea is to reach the top of the mountain before daybreak, and enjoy a breath-taking sunrise from the top. That was the plan we set out on. Of course, mountains don’t really have street lights or anything of the sort, so it was dark. Really dark. And cold. And then, the biblical-like plague rain started up again. So, essentially, we were climbing uphill in pitch-black darkness in freezing rain, with each step getting colder and wetter. I thought that I’d died and finally been sent to one of those circles of Hell I keep saying I’m going to be sent to. This was almost certainly retribution for the Snuzzlebunnies incident. Hey God, I can understand you wanting to send me to Hell for burying my face in the under-developed cleavage of a 15-year old Japanese girl, but if I told you I didn’t enjoy it would you at least stop the rain?
Apparently, I did enjoy it, because the rain intensified. At one point, we had to stop climbing and try to find some refuge against the side of a broken-down shack on the side of the mountain. While we waited, to take our minds off how cold and miserable we were, we decided to play a little Shiritori using musicians. Shiritori is a Japanese word game where one person says a word, then the next person must say a word that starts with the same letter that the last word ended with. For example, if the person person says “Madonna”, the next person would have to think of a musician that started with “A” – like “Aerosmith”. The next person would have to come up with a musician that starts with “H” – like “Howard Finkelstein and the Stonerock Accordions” And so on. It’s a game we English teachers often use in class (especially when we don’t have any better ideas), except we usually don’t require our students to be soaking wet seeking refuge from a typhoon a few thousand meters up a mountain. Although I would like to try this one day, I feel nothing is a better motivational tool than learning in the face of mortal peril. Though I can’t imagine what kind of permission slips I’d have to have the kids’ parents sign. “In the very likely event of death, you will not hold the school responsible for taking your kid up a mountain during severely bad weather.”
At one point, lightening started to strike. It was hitting the ground maybe 15-20 meters away from where we were. It was kind of cool, I mean I’ve never been that close to a lightening bolt before, and then it was really nice to have light, even if only for .32 seconds. It was cool at first, but then you realize that you were only 15-20 meters away from getting struck by lightening, and it sort of puts things in perspective.
At about the halfway point, over half of our group decided to quit and stay there for the night. Can you blame them? Certainly, that would have been the most logical/sane thing to do. And if you’ve been reading my editorials long enough, I shouldn’t have to tell you which group I was a part of. The rain eventually did stop (I think we just climbed higher than the clouds), but the higher we got, the colder it got. Considering that we were all completely wet, it wasn’t exactly a pleasant feeling.
Mt. Fuji is 3,776 meters tall. We made it up 3,500 meters before our tour guide got a radio warning – the winds were going to pick up, and unless we wanted to be actually blown off the mountain, we were going to have to head back. Having just survived lightening and rain and God’s fury and shit, most of us wanted to keep going. I mean, it was only 276 more meters! We’d come so far! Unfortunately, liability kicked in and we were forced to come down.
While we were waiting as our guide got the radio transmission, I noticed a group of climbers on the way down. The guide for that group spoke to our guide, confirming that winds were in fact picking up – though his group had reached the top, since they didn’t want to become human kites they were returning. As the group piled in behind him, I noticed that they were old Japanese ladies. Huh. What that means is, that here we had a group of little old Japanese ladies, who just climbed Mt. Fuji, IN THE MIDDLE OF A FUCKING TYPHOON. This only further proves my theory that little old Japanese obachan are indestructible. You know how, in Dragonball, Goku was basically the strongest man in the universe, but he bowed down to his wife Chi Chi? Goku knew – she was gonna become an old woman one day, and when that happened she’d be un-fucking-stoppable. I woulda bowed down too, and I’m not even a Super Saiyan.
Unfortunately, one does not simply get off Mt. Fuji. Climbing down is also a process, which from where we stood, was going to take an additional five hours. Hearing that, I kind of hoped that the winds would pick up and blow me off the mountain, as not only would it have been faster, it probably would have been more fun. I was still soaking wet, and the coldest I’d ever been in my entire life. Really, the only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that we would be going to a nearby bath house after getting off the mountain. Usually, Japanese baths are much too hot, hovering around the temperature at which Anakin Skywalker was burned into Darth Vader, but given the current circumstances I welcomed it.
Some five hours later, we were off the mountain and at the bath house. It was kind of funny seeing some of the first year JET’s, standing there with their hand towels and asking, “so, we’re not allowed to wear our boxers?” I think my exact response to this was something along the lines of, “BITCH! YOU JUST HAD A FUCKING MOUNTAIN TRY TO *KILL* YOU, AND YOU ARE WORRIED OH MY GOD, JAPANESE GUYS ARE GONNA SEE MY WEE-WEE!” For five hours coming down, all I could think about was relaxing in that nice hot bath, and now that I was here, I certainly wasn’t going to let a little inhibition stop me. I stripped down and jumped right in. There may have been a legion of Japanese guys staring at my junk (there probably were) but I didn’t care. I just survived a Nipponjin Smash from Mt. Fuji. You guys wanna look? Sure, be my guest! You want a better angle? Here, if I turn this way you’ll get better lighting. And here creates a nice blend of artistic shadows. And hey, look, if I push here – now it’s an ostrich.
And that is how I was cured of my bathhouse inhibitions. It only took something relatively minor as freezing my pancreas off, getting rained on for hours, and nearly getting struck by lightening. But hey, if I can do it, so can you. And despite the harshness of it all, I actually enjoyed the Fuji Trip. There’s a saying in Japan – “Only a coward fails to climb Mt. Fuji once; only a fool dares to do it twice.” I’m not quite sure where climbing in in the middle of a typhoon ranks, I think somewhere between suicidal tendencies, and legal insanity. But hey, at least I have a unique Mt. Fuji story, right?
Afterword
I later talked to Ms. Americanized about my Fuji trip. Turns out, she had an interesting Fuji experience as well.
Her: So we made it up to the top. And it was nice and all, but on the way down, I kind of stepped wrong and sprained my ankle.
Me: Oh man, that’s rough. What did you do?
Her: Well, that day there was a unit of US Marines there. I guess they climb Mt. Fuji as a training exercise? Well, as you can imagine, they were falling all over themselves for the opportunity to carry a young Japanese girl down the mountain.
Me: Hold on, let me get this straight. You got carried down Mt. Fuji … by an entire unit of US Marines?
Her: (grinning stupidly) Yeah, that was a good day.
Me: This is so unfair. Why can’t I be carried down Mt. Fuji by like the Swedish Bikini Team or something?
Her: . . .
Me: Hello?
Her: Oh, I’m sorry, what were you saying?
I have a new personal saying about climbing Mt. Fuji – “Only the suicidal, legally insane dare to climb Mt. Fuji during a typhoon; only very lucky English teachers get to come down it on the backs of United States Marines.” I’m going to see if we can’t get that put on a t-shirt.

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46 Responses

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  1. Alex Nelson said, on December 28, 2006 at 1:02 am

    bitchin’ also, possibly first post

  2. Emily Fish said, on December 28, 2006 at 4:08 am

    Az, I just have to say: you’re freakin’ sweet. Thanks for retelling your adventures even if those adventures mean that you were almost blown off Mt. Fuji.

  3. willow said, on December 28, 2006 at 4:59 am

    You have just defined the most godawful weather I can imagine. Cold + rain (+bonus points with lightning). I used to think too hot was terrible (my wife’s shoes pretty much melted in the desert in Morocco), but I REALLY hate cold weather.
    I’m testing my very own version of torture: going to work on my motorcycle (need to take the highway)! It is currently 4 degrees Celcius in Paris (France)! Thank God we don’t have snow yet.

  4. Anonymous said, on December 28, 2006 at 5:35 am

    Az, this is one of the best entries that I’ve read recently. I’ve read your site since the old url and know that you’re fully capable of bigger and better entries, especially now. You’ve grown both in your writing but also as a person. I hope that once you run out of old material you will still find the time to give us both anecdotal observations of japan but also nuggets of your personal wisdom at least a few times in the week. I’m a daily reader and hope that you continue to regale us with snapshots and instances from your life across seas.
    Best of luck with the japanese gf (if you haven’t already caused internal bleeding, you stud).
    -Soma

  5. Anonymous said, on December 28, 2006 at 5:35 am

    Az, this is one of the best entries that I’ve read recently. I’ve read your site since the old url and know that you’re fully capable of bigger and better entries, especially now. You’ve grown both in your writing but also as a person. I hope that once you run out of old material you will still find the time to give us both anecdotal observations of japan but also nuggets of your personal wisdom at least a few times in the week. I’m a daily reader and hope that you continue to regale us with snapshots and instances from your life across seas.
    Best of luck with the japanese gf (if you haven’t already caused internal bleeding, you stud).
    -Soma

  6. Matt Metford said, on December 28, 2006 at 5:36 am

    Lucky Ms. Americanized! Can’t blame her for spacing out there. All those big, strong marines…
    I’m sorry, what was I saying?

  7. Anonymous said, on December 28, 2006 at 6:17 am

    It’s only because I care that I say this:
    “Lightning.”

  8. Anonymous said, on December 28, 2006 at 6:17 am

    It’s only because I care that I say this:
    “Lightning.”

  9. Pfc Hollenberger said, on December 28, 2006 at 9:38 am

    Hoorah?

  10. Saille said, on December 28, 2006 at 11:42 am

    So Ms. Americanized likes American men, eh? XDD

  11. Rodental said, on December 28, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    I’m beginning to wonder if the japanese lifestyle isn’t actually a torturous training programme for producing a master race of indestructible Obaasans.
    As you say “If you are not suffering, you are not Japanese!” – It is therefore entirely possible that the constant suffering serves a means of desensitizing the people to any and all concievable threats and horrors:
    “You don’t scare me [mountain / gun-toting yakuza / towering gaijin / alien thing from beyond the 8th dimension] – I’ve already seen worse!”
    (of course japanese men are discarded along the way – a noble sacrifice for the glorious cause!)

  12. Crowley said, on December 28, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    Hilarious, man. Really funny 🙂

  13. Michael P. said, on December 28, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    Dang, I wish I can climb Mt. Fuji like you did.

  14. Lauren said, on December 28, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    Ah, the joys of nature trying to kick your ass! I fondly remember Girl Guides at this moment, where, for an entire weekend it rained, and we were all in tents. Then we camped again in -40 weather (Canadian, eh?) and the tent had ice in it.
    Congratulations on surviving the Nipponjin Smash. Not even Fuji-san can make you bow!

  15. Belthasar2 said, on December 28, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    If I ever make it to Japan, I maker sure to climb Mt. Fuji, but I think I’ll come better prepared. Judging from from your described outfit I say you’re what we (in Austria) call a “sandal climber” (mostly refering to unaware German tourists).
    And people keep wondering why there are so many lethal climbing accidents in the Alps …
    And yes, God definitely uses you for his entertainment, but hey, that means you won’t die so easily cause he surely doesn’t want to give away his favorite toy, right?

  16. Kosetsu said, on December 28, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    Holy crap. Az, if you don’t put that on a T-shirt, then I will.

  17. Cloak said, on December 28, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    Lmao Az, I’ve read all your articles and this is probably the funniest one. Indestructable old japanese ladies, bathhouses (and if I push it like this, it’s an ostrich! ROFL!), and Mrs Americanized.
    Haha, well done my friend. Great story.

  18. Mr. Bomberman said, on December 28, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    1. I think you ARE God.
    You survived lightning strikes, kancho attacks, tons upon tons of scandals, witnessed the most violent beating known to man, and you don’t give a fuck about being naked in public, and you live to tell about it.
    2. Sure Ms. Americanized’s story wasn’t bullshit? If it wasn’t, Then I sure dig her taste in men.
    And 3. You just made my day with this article. Thx ^^

  19. Ben said, on December 28, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    Bloomin onions are so delicious though.

  20. Rebecca Yu said, on December 29, 2006 at 12:49 am

    It was kind of funny seeing some of the first year JET’s, standing there with their hand towels and asking, “so, we’re not allowed to wear our boxers?”
    *tee hee*

  21. Alexandra said, on December 29, 2006 at 9:54 am

    Alex Nelson-
    Shit, is this the Alex Nelson who works at the black cat?

  22. Rich said, on December 29, 2006 at 11:15 am

    Brilliant entry, my favourite bit was “freezing my pancreas off”. A new phrase for 2007…

  23. Stevo said, on December 29, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    Sounds a bit like my experience, climbing Mt. Fuji in a rain/freezing rain (depending on altitude) storm with a decent concussion from a bicycle accident (avoiding an obasan who blindly stepped into the road from her shop) two days before. I was also wearing a sweater, and hadn’t bothered to buy a poncho. The winds were quite bad, but it wasn’t dramatic enough (or in the right season)to be called a typhoon. The concussion was the worst factor though, my whole head was throbbing the whole way making me dizzy. Yeah, I know: I’m a dumbass.

  24. Gabe said, on December 29, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    Az, I have to say this one was making me laugh all the way. Great story.

  25. Nils said, on December 30, 2006 at 10:23 pm

    You rock, Az, your blog really made my day (or night, or whatever).
    I hope you find the time to write more interesting new articles like this one (because I already know the old ones).

  26. Chris said, on December 31, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    I had the opportunity to scale Mt. Fuji while in Japan, and the weather was actually great when I climbed… which meant that instead of being drenched I was sunburnt.
    And no, there was no Swedish Bikini Team to rub lotion on me. We should speak to the Japanese Park Service or whatever it’s called about equipping Fuji with just such a team.

  27. Kat said, on January 1, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    I’m suddenly jealous of Ms Americanized. I don’t blame her for spacing out. ^^
    Anyway, great editorial! It made me laugh a lot, especially the part about indestructible obachans!

  28. Wrath said, on January 2, 2007 at 3:28 am

    longtime reader here. loving this content. stories like these are always splendid, and i’m glad to know the entire thing went off without turning ubershit disaster (physically, anyway…). toodles

  29. Christer S said, on January 4, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    Emily Fish: 4 degrees isn’t cold. It’s not even minus. Can it even snow if it’s not below zero? :/

  30. AutumnFire said, on January 5, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    If Ms. Americanized can find some small sliver of joy in being carried down Mt. Fuji by an entire unit of American Marines then I believe she’s certainly entitled. After all, didn’t you tell us she wished the U.S. would bomb Japan back to the Stone Age just so she could get a day off?

  31. Jenna said, on January 7, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    That’s how Ms. A learned all the English curse words!

  32. Marecki said, on January 8, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    On the note of being carried down Mt. Fuji – Az, given the context, should you want to try your luck I think you had better replace the Swedish Bikini Team with a group of Japanese old ladies…

  33. Gwen De Mediola Lawliet said, on January 12, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Dang a typhoon that is something and miss A getting carried by the Marines hehe one of my Marine friends is in japan i can see how she learned her curse words.

  34. Gwen De Mediola Lawliet said, on January 12, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Dang a typhoon that is something and miss A getting carried by the Marines hehe one of my Marine friends is in japan i can see how she learned her curse words.

  35. Stabi said, on January 22, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    I climbed Mt Fuji on the third WE of July 2006… your storie awakened a lot of bad memories of mine.
    At least I haven’t been almost toasted by lightning (but it was raining until the top… and no sunrise was seen)
    if you plan to climb that mountain, do not do it if rain could have probably been announced 300 km from Mt fuji

  36. Fox said, on February 26, 2007 at 10:38 am

    I’ve been going through your archives ever since a friend of mine sent me a link early this morning and I haven’t stopped laughing! My cheeks are starting to swell, my jaw feels like it got injected with tetanus, and my stomach feels like it’s ripped from cracking up so much! If you keep writting them, we’ll keep reading them! (Not a single sentence! Just all exclamations! O.o At least it’s not all in caps…)

  37. Mithril said, on March 8, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    ::giggle:: Wow. If you make that t-shirt, I want to buy one. You never cease to make me giggle (or in the case of the serious posts, not quite giggle >.>)
    I absolutely love your editorials, you can write about almost anything and it always comes out awesome.

  38. Anonymous said, on March 13, 2007 at 10:56 am

    Thats funny, She compares her spranged angle to your experience of almost dying? lol Gotta love Ms Americanized!

  39. Anonymous said, on March 13, 2007 at 10:56 am

    Thats funny, She compares her spranged angle to your experience of almost dying? lol Gotta love Ms Americanized!

  40. Daniel said, on September 4, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    WE DON’T HAVE A BIKINI TEAM 😄

  41. Anonymous said, on November 1, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    I don’t understand. We have our roots in Africa and yet it seems that nature hates us ever so much.

  42. Anonymous said, on November 1, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    I don’t understand. We have our roots in Africa and yet it seems that nature hates us ever so much.

  43. Jonadab the Unsightly One said, on February 22, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    willow: I have a friend who has ridden his motorcycle over sixty miles at a stretch in subzero weather on the Fahrenheit scale. 4 Celsius isn’t even cold, really, more like all warm and melty. Heck, it’s practically room temperature. Personally, I’m not much for motorcycles, but I’ve been swimming in the Olentangy river when there was snow on the ground, does that count?
    With that said, in terms of chilling you and stealing away all your body heat, the combination of wind and rain is actually a good deal worse than mere cold. In subzero weather your clothes stay dry no matter how much snow is coming down, and dry clothes provide much better insulation than wet ones, especially in the wind. I can only imagine what the wind would be like up on a notable mountain in a typhoon.
    Christer S: Whether it can snow when the temperature’s above zero depends on how you define “snow”. If the big wet three-quarters-melted slushplops they call “snow” in Alabama are good enough for you, I’ve seen it snow at temperatures up into the low 40s (all these numbers are on the Fahrenheit scale, convert as necessary). If you call that stuff “slush” but use the word “snow” to refer to any form of precipitation that’s actually a non-icy crystalline white solid, then it can’t snow much above 20. If you go further and declare that it’s not proper snow unless it’s a dry powder that squeaks under your feet when you walk and then continues to blow around afterward, then it pretty much has to be below zero to snow in that sense.

  44. LCPL THI said, on April 5, 2008 at 12:49 am

    OOR-AH! Semper Fi

  45. NeN said, on August 20, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Well, look on the bright side. How many other human beings can say they’ve scaled Mt. Fuji during a Tsunami, daily fight off asian children literally tumbling over themselves and each other to get within arm’s reach of their battle-scarred penis, strip the Japanese of both their free will and ability to produce coherent thought by asserting one’s foreign-ness, and make delinquents into model students through the use of their sharingan. Anyone?

  46. Scalenex said, on February 26, 2009 at 7:07 am

    This is my favorite of all your posts. Not only is well written and interesting, but it brought back many of my camping memories both good and bad. I especially like: “I was fully prepared for everything up to and including a gentle picnic on a warm summer day.” Two or three times being caught unprepared and now I prepare meticulously for any outdoor expedition.


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