Tag Archives: fuji

O snail climb but slowly, slowly

In a room as large as a one-car garage I find myself one of thirty? thirty-two, all stuffed together like matchsticks, trying to sleep and I’m ready to ignite. It is 11:45 p.m. and I can’t help it so I think of fifth grade and the stories they told me of the slave ships, human trafficking, people stacked into the hull lengthwise like lumber for days and I think well, at least I’m sleeping just on tatami instead of human feces, and I could get off the floor if I had the juice about me. But it it must be a realistic enough simulation, at elevation 3600m, tough to breathe the thin air, vastly underfed, exhausted in all senses, a pair of Superman tall-building-in-a-single-bounds from the summit of The Fooj, Fuji-san, Mount Fuji, the highest place in all of Japan except must have been my head when I agreed to this trip a week ago. My toes are freezing, and I don’t take off the socks, or even touch them. I decide I won’t take them off until I get home to save us all the trouble, cause god knows what’s in there.

They are early-onset, still, my conditions: the sunburn, all the more exacting and brutal above the clouds, ignoring sunblock like a lucky D&D roll, has just begun to make itself known as the backs of my ears brush against the bag-of-Lays-sized pillow I’ve been issued. For sanitary reasons, and certainly not comfort, it has been conveniently wrapped in a handtowel, the texture of which may not be misleadingly described in promotional materials as “abrasive.” As I have been for the last dozen hours, I pull air in fruitlessly, lungshot gasping for a dying breath, my heart occasionally switching to half-time for a moment and back, tossing me into vertigo for a second and a quarter every so often. Underneath me I command roughly fifteen inches of space from side to side excluding arms. They go nowhere, unless I flip over on my side, which is arguably less comfortable than just not sleeping, a promising candidate which I elect to office. After four hours of rolling about between restless Jessy and a Japanese stranger, I leave the sleeping room with my Nintendo and sit cross-legged in the entry, surrounded at midnight by happily dozing climbers, the sounds only of drawn breath and my occasional plastic button clicks. I am the tiredest I’ve ever been, and I know I won’t be off of this rock for a while.

There is nobody to complain to, of course, out here, not that I would say anything anyway. Some of them, in eager pursuit of the best places from which to watch the legendary sunrise, have already begun their roust, assembling their obviously careful-planned gear in tandem: headlamps, thick boots and goggles, windbreaking garments, dressed for the alpine, dressed for starting their car on an Iowa winter morning, dressed completely unlike I am. I am wearing all I brought. A t-shirt under a turtleneck under a zip-up fleece with a scarf and gloves. I have jeans on and my street shoes hang in a plastic bag. The shoes already look like week-old roadkill, surface the texture of a block of grating parmesan, crusted by air, crusted by Volcanic Ash, who would have known. My hiking pack is just Jessy’s bookbag, emptied of flashcards and pictures of animals and stuffed with too few snacks and an empty plastic 1.5 liter C.C. Lemon bottle that was filled with water when the day began. These mother fuckers got campstoves and Cup Noodle, holy mary mother of god I have two beef sticks and CalorieMate. According to Wikipedia, CalorieMate comes in several forms, including Block, Jelly, and Can. I have only Block, a hundred-calorie powdery chocolate bar. I wonder for a second if I should have gone with Jelly or Can but then remember that I am a professional why-noterator: do you think you can climb the tallest mountain in Japan without purchasing anything special? Why not.

Hours later at about four in the morning comes the last push on up, stabbed by wind and leg fatigue. It feels like bounding forward in anticipation of my own death, oh please baby drive the knife on in. But I ache for it, not because of what awaits (“the end”) but because I’ve been going at it for so goddamned long, I just have to finish, get up there, and then there is no more path, just rocks and wind and people.

And oh, that sunrise. Looking down on my newest home is like looking down on bowls of cloud yogurt, reined in by mountains and all slamming up so far away that I can’t even place it all as shit that’s usually not stuff I gotta look down to see. I look up and there is nothing, no powerlines, no cicada calls, not a distant apartment building or a tree or rail line, just the sky, just up up there, and suddenly it ain’t so bad. Then some dust hits me in the eyes, probably.

Imagine watching six hours of the home shopping network, getting punched in the face when you are finished, and then being told in order to watch anything else on your TV ever again or even leave the room you have to watch two more hours of the home shopping network in reverse at 3x speed with a vicegrip clamped on your head and tightening with every minute, and that is what going back down is like.

When we pull into our home train station I convince Jessy that she should run ahead to the grocery store and buy us some fucking hamburgers cause we are going to have a feast tonight. While I am alone I start the shower and take my socks off. Underneath is where I’ve been and what it’s done to me, and next to my square tub I scrub the mountain down the drain.

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Focus on this play, this moment!

I am in the front row of a section of seats in Koshien Stadium, it is hotter than it has been in days, and a drunk man of this country has decided he will carry on a conversation with me while baseball occurs out in the field. I, in an effort to represent the entirety of the group I accompany (60+ natives of other countries), abandoned in favor of the pursuit of fried chicken by my Japanese-speaking other half, decide to tackle this issue head on.

“America and Canada and Japan.” My answer to what I believe is a question asking where we, or some amount of us, are from

“I think our power is really big!” My response to some comment issued while he was gesturing at the scoreboard (we are, at the time, losing 8-1)

“Curry rice, delicious, isn’t it?” My question, offered in response to a question that may have nothing to do with the food I was holding

“The, I, this, uhh…” My answers to nearly everything else said, interspersed with smiles, looks of terror, and nodding

Eventually his wife comes along and drags him away as he resists. It is fortunate, because we have arrived at a point where I am sure he is demanding some sort of answer that likely centers on information and examples, and I sense the game is up. My friends, sitting next to me, ask if I could understand what he was saying. I tell them “a little,” which must be about 23% true.

To my horror, he later returns, eager on continuing to tap at the rich vein of cultural exchange we began with earlier. He is immediately interrupted by our team’s first sign of life in this game, a Grand Slam Home Run, the onset of which brings deafening cheers of glory and sends the man and all around him into a frenzy. As though shaking out a dirty rug he grabs me by the hands and yanks me up from my seat, jangling me like a marionette who must dance for quarters. I am far too tall for his efforts at jerking me around, size comparisons considered, and soon he’s just holding me by the wrists, the elbows, begging for mercy, oh please god, oh please, oh. He switches to High Fives, pleading for them, fives for the poor, fives to feed the children, and begins to five everyone in sight.

The stylish young woman with the beer keg mounted on her back taps one for somebody (only 600 yen) as she is left just another Cheerio in the bowl, all knocked around with each other. It is about this time that our pal Dan comes back from his own chicken run, and is promptly devoured by the five-lust of the local drunk, fived to fucking death, meat. I avert my eyes, unable to witness the grave anathemas of this thing they call “baseball.”

In the seventh inning, everyone in the stadium inflates balloons that look like giant tiger-striped phalli, then, courtesy of plastic propulsion inserts, release them skyward with great shouts. Before they can hit the ground like dead rubbery sky jellyfish the cleaning crew is waiting in the outfield to scoop them up.

After three more innings of being goddamned useless, Hard-luck Hanshin loses 8-5. I am relieved, but only because I cannot predict what may have happened to me had we won.

Having guests is much like visiting someone else yourself–the dynamic of your dwelling twists, the played-out, boring schedule changes, the activities are altered through the eyes of a fresh situation. On Friday we eat tomato ramen and gyoza from one of our favorite places in north Sannomiya, then drink alcohol at a bar for foreigners, where some English teacher’s coworker is forced to do the Moonwalk.

On Saturday, with our visiting couple from Canada firmly entrenched, we invite another couple from just across the way in the other building over for some Mario on Wii. It is a wonder that “parties” even existed before this game.

As we carry out our calculated video crimes against humanity to each other (crushed by huge drill, thrown into fireball, forcibly advanced off edge of screen), we do our part to upset the neighbors with the vulgar shouts of Engrish phrases so heinous that even they might recognize them. Front-runner, and so good I can’t believe it actually exists, is printed on Dan’s new shirt: DON’T WANNA DO A SUCK. We begin to refer to Mario merely as “red Toad,” which is so inexplicably funny to me that I start replacing Mario’s name in game titles mentally (Super Red Toad Brothers 3, Super Red Toad World, Red Toad Power Tennis). Jessy, frequently murdered and relegated back to “floating around the level in a bubble” status, begins to chant “BURST ME, BURST ME, BURST ME,” while flailing the remote wildly, and from there it is all over, the rollercoaster clacking its last clack before screaming down the hill. We eat Miracle Fruit Tablets off eBay, which make lemons taste sweet. There is a bag of candy-coated french fries-like potato snacks on the floor, and chocolates, and gummies, and spicy dried squid, which I am instructed to “never open in the house again,” presumably because it smells like spicy dried squid. On the other side of Kobe, the man from the baseball game applies lipstick and smokes a cigarette.

NOTABLE MINOR HAPS SINCE THE PRIOR NOM
– During a self-introduction class for one of my new sections of first years in high school, being asked “do you like boys or girls,” answering “I like everyone, how about you,” and then watching a fifteen-year-old troublemaker turn red
– In the same, bizarre class, being asked by one of the girls “why are your legs so long,” a question I could barely answer
– New “Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker” promotional Mountain Dew soda, which, while tasting the same as any other Mountain Dew in this country, is adorned with artwork of characters from the namesake video game, lending the soda a clout which represents the presentation of one of the first opportunities I have actually had to buy Mountain Dew in a convenience store here, instead of the one vending machine in Kobe that I know to sell it
– Today’s bento, clocking in at an admiral 906 kcals, which contains a layer of rice and is topped with sweet barbecue beef, a breaded and fried fish fillet with a glob of tartar sauce, one massive chicken nugget, and some shredded lotus root and cabbage (tiny building-block shaped grilled egg sits in a compartment on the side), and which is totally goddamned perfect
– New “Qun” gummies, sweet and chewy, with sour sauce inside, decorated with a picture of a sun making approximately this face, presumably due to the incredible pain the sour has caused him: >_<
– The onset of fiber-optic Internet in our apartment, which, while not ascending to the touted and lofty "HYAKUMEGA" speeds we were drugged with during the sales pitch, certainly hit a download/upload speed of 34Mbit/15Mbit up here on the seventh floor last night, or roughly fast enough to download a 6MB MP3 file in two seconds
THOSE WERE SOME HAPS

We leave this weekend for Hakone during the string of holidays called Golden Week. Hakone is a town most notable for being near Mt. Fuji and providing some supposedly good views of said mountain, and notable to me for being the city where the fictional Evangelion anime series was “set.” This week they even decorated a Lawson convenience store that has a bunch of special Evangelion items in it, and I am afraid I am going to have to track it down and fill my bags with dumb crap I totally don’t need. We are taking the bullet train, which will mean my second chance to ride it, and I am excited. While I am gone, the new Super Street Fighter IV video game will arrive at my apartment. It is a fighting game which features an oil wrestler who grabs enemies and squirts them out of his rippling muscles to inflict damage.

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