Fuji View. An apt name for the path. Mt. Fuji looms to the west, a constant presence obscured by trees though it is. From Peacefield Pass (和田峠) the trail becomes narrow and rough: it’s clear that this section is not nearly as popular as those closer to Hightail. It’s just as I prefer.
The landscape around this section is reminiscent of the Ozarks, at least if you keep your eyes close to the ground in front of you. The distance to the valley floor belies the difference even if the foliage and surface geology resemble southeast Missouri.
On I walk past the major landmarks. There’s Daigo Pass (醍醐峠) and Daigo Circle (醍醐丸), whose names literally mean “clarified butter,” though there are some religious connotations since the word is also used as a metaphor for Nirvana. Recognizing my own original since of oddity at the name, I imagine a Japanese person’s possible reaction if he were to visit a place called Bread and Wine Mountain.
The sun is approaching the horizon and the colors of the skyline are starting to wane purple. I realize I have to find a good view of Mt. Fuji quickly if I’m going to catch any good shots. I hurry though the trail is steep and my knee warns me for my effort. I dash and scramble and sometimes crawl along the steep path, hardly noticing as I pass Kaya Circle (named for a type of grass used to make thatch), the high point of the course at 1019 m. The colors are spectacular. I’m sure I’m going to miss the shot. Finally I ascend the rocks to Living Wysteria Mountain (生藤山) and find a slight view through the foliage. I take it.
The sun has set, but there’s still enough light to see. I set camp and gather firewood as it wanes. Tent set, I light the fire and throw a foil pack next to it to cook and I break out my alcohol stove and heat up some sake.
I like backpacking in the winter because you never get too hot. The downside is the nights. They’re long and cold and there isn’t much to do. Tonight, I turn on some news podcasts and watch the fire burn, but eventually I get tired of the pundits voices as they try to convince to be angry about what some person I’ll never meet thinks, so I turn on music instead.
Being alone gives you time to think and the music brings back memories. I think about the past, about people I knew and old wounds start to ache. Travelling alone gives one the chance to deal with these memories without distractions, without anything to bury yourself in to keep your attention away from what’s bothering you. Tonight I’m not in the mood, though. I shut the music off and give Ivy a call. She’s busy with schoolwork but takes ten minutes to chat. Idly I look off in the direction of Mt. Tsukuba, but even if it were bright it’s view would be blocked by the ridgeline. Ten o’clock rolls around and I run out of firewood. Time for bed.
I awake. I always find that sleep lasts a lot shorter when your bed is neither comfortable nor particularly warm. You sleep just enough and then it’s over. It’s still dark now and I lay wondering how long I have until sunrise, but my phone isn’t in my pocket and I don’t feel like crawling out of my sleeping bag to find it in the dark. Instead, I wait for a sign of light.
I’m not sure how much time passed. It always seems like hours but it might have been less than one. Light. It’s faint but present. I might have not even noticed a difference if I wasn’t looking for it. I get up. It’s cold but not so cold. I cook breakfast, break camp, and catch some shots of Fuji as the sun rises.
I shoulder my pack. The trail descends and ascends sharply from one small peak to the next. At Three Countries Pass (三国峠), named for it’s location on the borders of Yamanashi, Kanagawa, and Tokyo, I see a tent. It’s the first sign of a person I’ve seen on this section of the trail, but whoever it is is still sleeping soundly in the tent. I snap another picture of the view and move on. A branch framed the top of the photo to good effect.
After a while I arrive at a shrine in a small meadow at a high point. I’m disappointed that I didn’t make it this far to camp. The ground is covered by soft grass and there’s space to move about. More importantly, a clear view of Fuji is afforded. I imagine what my sunset photos would look like if I had taken a shot from here the previous night.
According to legend, Yamato Takeru, prince of ancient Japan, stopped here to rest his army on a campaign some 2,000 years ago. Judging from the amount of space here, army must be an exaggeration of the amount of people he brought with him. A nearby sign announced that two great festivals are held here, one on April 19th and another on October 19th.
From here the trail winds steadily downwards to Shallowgap Pass (浅間峠). There’s a small pavilion and lots of flat, soft ground. No view, but it seems a nice place to camp. If mountaintops aren’t your thing, this is the place to stop. The descent from here is shallow and easy, which is unusual for trails in Japan. My knees don’t complain at all. In no time I reach the valley and enter a small village of maybe 10-15 houses. It’s the end of the Fujiview Path, but not the end of this trip: next is the History Path. For the moment, I settle down at the bus stop to take a rest and snap a picture of a bright red maple.
The best season for this section is undoubtedly winter as the lack of leaves on the trees affords the best view of Mount Fuji and I didn’t notice that many maples or flowering trees that might make the place more scenic in the Spring or Autumn. Although it’s more than short enough to do in a single day, camping on this route gives one the chance to take some awesome sunset and sunrise photos of Fuji. For this purpose, I recommend camping near at the shrine described above since the mountain is clearly visible from there and the ground is spacious and soft.
Kilometers walked: 50.3 (2.8%)
Courses completed: 3/160 (1.9%)
Day’s spent: 2.5
This post is part of an ongoing series on the Fureai Trail. To view the other posts in this series, click here.
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© 2017 Brian Heise