Friday, September 25, 2009

I left my heart in Shojiko

Here I am on the bus back from Kawaguchiko to Tokyo, typing this up to post later. Bless the netbook.

I was tempted to stay all day out here, maybe go back to Shojiko, which truthfully I only saw from the bus but fell in love with as we circled it. Tiny blue-green horseshoe-shaped lake, surrounded by unassuming-looking shops and hotels, with plenty of folk boating and fishing on the lake, gorgeous view of Fuji. It also seems more walkable than Motosuko or even Kawaguchiko, which you just can't circle. No trails. This area is also not meant for hiking; you can't get there from here unless you're willing to walk along the edge of a major road. Only two lanes, admittedly, but no shoulder; you'd just be walking the line. No thanks.

Anyway, I decided against it mostly because my stomach has been only the edge of cooperation (medication issues, I think), and also because I was a little afraid that it might be anticlimactic. I got my boating on Motosuko, and that'll just have to hold me till the next water trip. I must say that I am still mightily bummed that there's no swimming in any of the lakes, particularly Motosuko. The water there was so clear and felt so good just splashing my hands in it that I'm sure it would have been the swim of a lifetime. (Had I not been wearing sneakers and full clothing, I'd have been tempted to fall overboard by accident.) Incidentally, all the people (all Japanese) were staring at me as I calmly boated around, including the old boatmen who clearly thought I'd paddle feebly away from shore and get stuck. Must not be a very feminine thing to do here. The boat was actually great, very light and with curved paddles, which let me whiz over the surface of the water. The photo is the view of Fuji from the water.

On the way to the other lakes, I stopped at two famous lava caves formed by old Fuji eruptions, Hyoketsu and Fuketsu. Fuketsu, which I went to first, is the “wind cave,” a dark little cave with a small structure built at the end of it. Alas, all the signage was in Japanese, so I have no idea what the heck I was looking at. There was lava rock. There was some ice. There were bamboo banisters.

Hyoketsu was more exciting. The descent was fairly perilous, though brief; I met some elderly Japanese emerging who looked like they'd been through the mill. Really steep, narrow stairs (wet, to boot), tunnel-like areas with vaguely step-like indentations. At one point you had to crouch and scoot through. I gave up and slid on my butt for a few feet, thinking all the time, “How would my parents manage this?” Hyoketsu used to be mined for ice, and there were signs with pictures showing how it was done. They have ice blocks piled up in a few areas for historical reenactment purposes. Lots of fun.

I hiked from Fuketsu to Hyoketsu through the beginning of the famous sea of trees, Aokigahara, following the signs by matching the Kanji to the words on my bus schedule. I now know the character for cave. Some of it was nice walking, some rougher over loose lava rocks, two small pebbles of which I took for souvenirs. I also bought some pink Japanese salt when killing time waiting for the bus to Motosuko (had to go back to Fuketsu for that).

And as I said, all day, the only foreigner around. Really unique experience. I exaggerate when I say that they didn't speak a word of English. They all spoke words. Maybe two. And I finally heard someone refer to me as a 'gaijin,' which excited me no end. I did teach the old man the word for “rowboat,” and when I backed the boat neatly into the launching fork, he said, “Nice!”

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