Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Mount Fuji: the most beautiful of sights

During my trip to Tōkyō, we went on one excursion outside the city to see Japan’s highest mountain, 3,700 metre high Mount Fuji. Despite the average temperature on the summit being well below freezing, it is sufficiently free of snow during the warm, wet summer that many people have always climbed it on foot without such gear as crampons and ice axes (which of course were not invented when the mountain was first climbed after the Meiji Restoration). It was regarded as a sacred mountain to many Japanese, which is why it was never climbed before the Meiji Restoration.

The trip from Tōkyō to the foot of Mount Fuji was a series of train journeys, some of which were on minor lines through extremely mountainous country. We saw very little of densely populated Tōkyō and the Kantō plain, instead seeing chiefly tiny plots that are uneconomic to farm in a country so land-scarce as Japan. In the winter, of course, there were rice plots that looked blond like the dry grass that is a familiar site in the same months all over Victoria. A notable and unexpected feature of the trip to see Fuji was the coloured train - something I did not expect from a country as hard-working and industrious as Japan is supposed to be.

When I. in a small town whose name I never bothered to remember, had a look at Fuji from a steep road in very cool to cold but quite clear weather, I was astonished at how spectacular a site I was seeing. Although I had seen something like the blue (pale blue) colour of the snow of Fuji before, it was only in Southeast Alaska’s glaciers which have liquid water underneath, and as I have said Mount Fuji does not have glaciers. (Indeed, apart from Kamchatka the maritime regions of Asia have no present-day glaciation whatsoever despite high rainfall and north of Tōkyō severe cold, probably because summer rainfall, which is extremely heavy at high altitudes, is very good at melting snow). The light reflected from the snow of a beautful, and massive volcano was something that I had never seen before.

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