Friday, June 28, 2013

Newest World UNESCO Heritage Site -- Mount Fuji

Last week Mount Fuji was named a World UNESCO Heritage Site. Prior to this trip, I don't remember seeing this phrase. It seems to be all over Japan. Many of the shrines and temples we visited have this designation, and now so does Mount Fuji. There has been a push for years to grant Mount Fuji this designation, but for a number of reasons it didn't happen until last week. (Turns out there are 21 World UNESCO Heritage Sites in the US, including the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall and many National Parks.)

When our planning for this trip began, Ashley insisted one thing she wanted to do was to visit Mount Fuji. The more I thought about it, the more I realized she had never really been to a mountain before. Sure we've driven through some on road trips, but not walk through a cloud or feel the change in elevation. Some emails back and forth with Masumi and she found one for one of the few days we were in Tokyo.

What was billed as a "half-day" trip, turned out to be a mistake in translation. Masumi thinks of a day as 24 hours (which is technically correct) so a 12 hour trip is half a day. I think of a day in terms of the hours I am awake, so I was thinking a half day trip would return by 2.

The entire trip was in Japanese -- including what time to return to the bus during the numerous rest stops. Lunch was a Japanese lunch box eaten on the bus (yes, pork). To be fair, the lunch was tastier, healthier, and more plentiful than any box lunch I've gotten on an American bus.

Don and I realized this is the first bus trip we have taken in 14 years since we were in Italy. They are the same. There is the obligatory stops and tourist traps and the working around someone else's schedule. It will probably be a long time before we do another one because we are not fond of spending more time at the tourist trap than at the historic site. For what we wanted to do, though, this was probably the best option as we were certainly not renting a car to drive on roads with road signs we cannot read with thousands of drivers who drive on the wrong side of the road (or so it seems to us). Just not a good combination.

Our tourist stops included at the Kakita River's Spring

a waterfall

a gift shop by the
sponsor of the trip

a shrine to Mount Fuji

two highway rest stops (one coming and one going)

a photo op of one of the five lakes

a group of 8 spring pools

and a stop at the 5th level of Mount Fuji. 

The stop at Mount Fuji was too short. All included opportunities for ice cream and souvenir shopping. I ended up eating ice cream three times that day: peach, strawberry and melon. Looking forward to non-soft serve ice cream back home.

With the exception of Mt. Fuji, my favorite stop was the Fugaku-Fuketsu Lava Cave. It was 0 degrees (32 degrees Fahrenheit to us). We saw ice formations inside. I'm thinking they were stalagmites (from the bottom up). 

The day was cloudy, but not rainy. This would not have been a fun trip in the rain. Unfortunately we were never able to get a good picture of Mt. Fuji as more than half of it was covered in clouds. We just have to trust that we were actually there and that it was not just an elaborate set.

Not sure if this is Mt. Fuji as all of the mountains were covered in clouds

At the end of the trip, we said a teary good-bye to Hiroko by the Tokyo Station.

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