High School junior Carolyn Hane recounts how seven ASIJ students made it to the top of Mt. Fuji.
Three-thousand, seven hundred, seventy-six meters (12, 380 feet) to conquer, and six and a half hours to do it. Scalding or frigid, rain or shine, seven brave ASIJ high school students and two daring teachers began the steady trek up the rocky terrain and steep dirt inclines of Mt. Fuji. The ultimate goal? To make it to the summit in time to see the sunrise.
After all seven students—two sophomores, two juniors, and three seniors—gathered at the school on Saturday evening, we started on the two and a half hour van ride to the Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station on Mt. Fuji (a popular starting point about halfway up the mountain, at 2,300 meters above sea level), where we would begin our six and a half hour journey through the night in order to see the 5:27AM sunrise at the summit.
During the first few hours of the climb, there were several mice found squeaking along each pathway, keeping us distracted as we traversed across steep, large, gravel-filled incline; there were “stairs” (very thick, tall wooden planks nailed into the rocky surfaces) at both ends of each incline, connecting one to the next, and very often, these “stairs” were well over two feet tall, providing us with numerous cardiorespiratory exercise opportunities to take advantage of. A few hours before sunrise, the steady hiking changed drastically, to climbing massive rock formations that got our hearts pumping and adrenaline going in the very late hours of the night.
“Polé, polé!” Our teacher would periodically shout to us. Otherwise known in Swahili as “slowly, slowly,” this phrase became the group’s mantra, and source of motivation and camaraderie.
After six to seven hours, everyone successfully reached the summit! Had it not been for our headlamps, we never would have been able to navigate through the darkness that made this adventure a little more challenging. Tirelessly trudging on through the black of night up Mt. Fuji’s rocky terrain, but not so tireless once at the top, ASIJ’s high schoolers took a moment to revel in their triumph with smartphone selfies and group pictures holding the ASIJ flag, before collapsing onto the stony steps of one of the summit tourist shops in exhaustion.
At around 5:30AM, the first of the sun’s rays peaked over and shot across the valley at the foot of the mountain below. Getting to experience such a magnificent, beautiful fleeting moment made the muscle aches and pains all worthwhile.
After making our way back down the mountainside and by the time we reached the Mt. Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station—the “base camp”—we were fully depleted. But as we crawled into the van for the ride back to Tokyo, looking back at Fuji we found the reserve for one last Snapchat: we survived. (Carolyn Hane, grade 11 student)