Japan 00, p7

Climbing Takao-san

Saturday September 9

Our boldest project during the trip was the ascension of Takao-san at night, in order to see the sun rise from the top on the following morning. We spent the day quietly at home to be ready in the evening. We agreed with Tatsu to leave at 6, and so it was that at 7:30 we left home We took the train to the foot of the mountain, which is also "Takao Quasi-national Park" (if anyone as any idea what a quasi-national park is, I'd love to hear it). We started climbing as the last cable car (the civilized way to reach the summit) was disembarking its passengers. It took us 2 hours to reach the top. We did it all by torch light, as the thick canopy prevented the moonlight from reaching. It was both exciting and beautiful: a total contact with nature, and an adventure such as I haven't had since my scout camps, where we also liked to have mountain climbing and games at night.

From time to time we could see Tokyo from above, all a-twinkle. We even had a few adrenalin rushes. At one point two ghostly dogs suddenly showed up in the limited light of the torches: they were sculptures guarding a shrine. Then there were two guys who were walking down the trail, also with flashlights. And also the glow worms, the nuts falling from the trees on our heads...

The top is not in a state of wilderness, as it's the destination point of the cable cars. It has restaurants, gift shops and... vending machines! There wasn't a soul up there (except for a fox that scampered past), which was awesome. We each slapped a blanket on a bench or picnic table and slept right there under the stars.

Sunday, September 10

We were awake by 4, and waited for the sunrise. I couldn't have left the land of the rising sun without one.

At 5:30 we were off again, heading home, which we reached by 7 (we had come down the wrong side of the mountain, so walked instead of taking the train). I was never in such dire need of a shower.

Note from my journal:
"When I woke up I realized I had crossed through the red zone without noticing and walked straight into past the point of non-return. I'm talking about attachment, to this land, its people, its daily life... When I made sure I'd be living the life of a Japanese for 3 weeks, rather than a tourist's life, I had forgotten about this particular risk! I'll miss the morning ramen, the constant bowing, the language, kanji everywhere, sharing the sidewalk with bikes, the clerks' "irashaimaseeeeee", the alien drinks and bitter tea of the vending machines, the omnipresent lucky cat and paper cranes, living temples with paper foldings to keep demons at bay, acupuncture slippers, abundant advertising, constant expressions of politeness, crazy clothing, angular eyes, and all the traditional things that are as alive now as ever..."

I was chewing on this when Okasan came into the room to give me a birthday present. I keep it in my purse: it is a small, beautiful tissue pocket with a tiny mirror that fits into it. She also gave me a book on origami and paper. Anchan and Tacchan were dead to the world, so I went alone to HachiƓji to shop in a paper store. When I returned there was a birthday cake waiting for me.

 Monday September 11

I turned 21 in Takao, Japan. Okasan gave me yet another gift, Japanese pajamas, and fed me Okinawa recipes for breakfast urchins and fried fish (gulp). I was to leave Takao this morning to move in with my cousins for my last few days. Obasan started crying when I left... It was so touching.

The next 3 days were not very eventful, except for one evening when Tatsu and I walked around Yebisu while Anne was giving a class. We went to the Beer Museum of Yebisu, shortly before closing time, and then took the elevator to the top of the "Top of Yebisu" for a view of Tokyo from the 39th floor.

Friday September 15

For my last day in Japan, the three of us met at Takashimaya and went for Karaoke in the middle of the day. We just didn't want to part, so I suggested we should just stay together until the taxi came for me at 6 am the next morning there was a spacious lobby in my cousin's building where we could spend what was left of the night if necessary.

It was "Respect for Aged Day", a festival to honor elder citizens and celebrate their longevity. Everybody was out on the street getting ready for a parade. Many streets were closed to cars for the occasion. Simultaneously, the opening ceremony was taking place in Sydney and we watched part of it on screens in the street. I was spewing because I had just just missed Lebanon. After having dinner at Anatolia again we went back to Karaoke until 3 am!

Finally we collapsed in the lobby in Daikenyama. The taxi came too soon, and I was off to the airport.

Sunday September 17

I spend 30 hours in Kuala Lumpur, but I'm too tired of adventures to leave the hotel (which is in the middle of nowhere, actually). When the shuttle took us back to the airport, there was a group of Japanese in there with me. They seemed to ignore my presence, and yet when we reached the airport and went each our way, they turned and warmly waved me goodbye.
I had my final laugh upon checking in, when the woman asked me: "May I see you dress please?" I looked at her dumbfounded, and she added: " We're putting you in business class and I wanted to check that your dress was nice. You're lucky today."
I was indeed!