Mount Fuji, Part Two – Fuji stick

You’re supposed to bring home at least one item from every country if you can, or at least every trip.  How does one do this though if you’re constrained to one backpack?  For this reason and many others, I don’t really have too many corporeal possessions from my travels.

But sometimes you pick up an item that you find a way home any darn way you can.  I think I shipped my Fuji stick home via 1912 British Imperial tramp steamer.  I made it happen.  It cost me 13 pounds, 6 shillings, and a bottle of my finest barley swill.

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If you ascend Fuji, you have the option to take the wooden Fuji stick.  Not everybody does so.  Those who’ve been up multiple times have no need.  Some folks consider it a vicious tourist trap kind of thing.  But I just think it’s too cool.

The idea is you start out with this bare piece of wood.  At various way stations on your journey up, they use a hot brand to burn logos into the stick.  Here’s a shot of mine of a local carrying one up where he’s taken the flag off.

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Of note, whereas I left my Japanese flag on my stick, see how the local has taken his off.  I attribute this to the difference in patriotism between your average Japanese and say an American.

For example, my Parents have always had the Stars & Stripes flying outside their front door.  Always.  You would not see this type of behavior from almost any normal Japanese family.  Patriotism is a very different mindset between the two countries.

The Fuji stick takes this concept into overdrive as the flag that adorns it is not just any flag, but the older Rising Sun Flag of Imperial Japan.  I don’t know why Fuji chooses this over the modern and less controversial single red circle?  But anyways, a lot of locals took their flags off their stick.  Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t matter to me either way, I just find the concept interesting.

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Here’s a close up of one of the stamps.  A torii gate with the year I climbed, 2005.  Man, I’m getting freaking old.

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A few more stamps, one with 3,400 for 3,400 meters.  Then, above it again the year 2005, and 11,000 feet.  Note feet, not meters.  I think that guy must have had two stamps.  One that did meters, and one that did 11,000 feet for the gaijin.

My Fuji stick sits right next to my home desk, always.  You can actually catch it in the background of an old shot I had for a previous post where I talked about beer.  Win.

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Mount Fuji – only once?

It is said that a wise person will climb Fuji once, but only a fool will do it twice.  Well, what if you’re not wise to begin with?  And what do you do when you climb it the first time, and it’s a fog filled mess?

I think the answer is you have to climb it again.  Even if that throws my soul out of alignment and curses me.  Then I’d need to enlist the services of Shōki The Demon Queller to cleanse my spirit.  But I’m down with that.

Shōki only takes payment in fine sake.  So he and I can get ripped on it after he’s done slaying the cursed demon that’s bugging my dogs while they troll around the basement looking for crickets.

So I’ll be climbing Fuji again someday.  Just to do it again.  And because I couldn’t see anything when I reached the summit because of all the fog.

Besides, when climbing Fuji I constantly got passed by folks who were probably 73 years old.  They were kicking my ass.  I’m betting (other than the fact that these people are awesome) that this was not their first dance with Fuji.  If they can do it multiple times, so can I.

IMG_1018This shot is actually in the early afternoon at the end of my climb.  It’s the only decent shot I have of Fuji that day.  Note the clouds that still owned the summit.

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Nobody should climb Fuji unless they’re in decent shape.  There are no training wheels.  You get a stick, you get the assist lines, and that’s it.  In some cases the path is a total mess.  You’re walking directly on volcanic rock.  I loved it.

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The climb is a series of switchbacks.  At the choke points it can get a bit crowded, but I suppose there is room to slide by if you’re in a hurry or are timing yourself.

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Foooggg.  I did somehwat regret the fog, but honestly, since I know I’m going up again it was actually a lot of fun.  It added to the mystery of Fuji.  It’s like walking on a mystical moon.

Looking Up4Unrelated photo of climbers who are better than I.

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I don’t have any shots of the summit.  There some shops and such.  But we couldn’t see anything up there.  Here is a shot right below the summit upon beginning descent.

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Descent is just as much a challenge as ascent.  You’re using different muscles and the switchbacks are over different ground which is looser.  Note in this shot the slow descent from volcanic wasteland until it’s ultimately the greenery of lower altitudes.

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Nature begins to return with some green here and there.

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One of my ubiquitous random forest shots at the end of the descent.  I’ll also go back to hike the forests around Fuji itself.  They’re beautiful, and a sharp delightful change from the overwhelming concrete of urban Japan.

 

 

controlled dreams

I remember few concrete things from the wacky Jetsons cartoon.  But certain things remain sharp.  They had robot football, this angered me.  They also had a machine that could control dreams.  You got to dream about whatever you wanted.  How cool would that be?

I find the older I get the more garbage my dreams are.  It’s a mess of bad nonsense.  I can barely remember a thing.  I think a pet dinosaur stole my television.  Whatever.

But Japan is there quite often in a way nowhere else is.  I have no idea why.  I haven’t been to Japan in ten years.  Money and time keep getting in my way.

I think it’s because I lived there.  I suppose I equally dream about places I lived growing up and just think nothing of it.  Japan’s different because it’s the outlier.

I’m usually like scaling mountains, or somewhere near the water, and always roto-sushi.  I’m always wandering around crowded streets trying to find a place to eat roto-sushi.  If I was a billionaire I’d first open my own brewery.  Then I’d open my own roto-sushi place so I could visit it forever.

I don’t know what all this means.  Don’t really care.  So whatever, here’s a shot of Fugi in the fog I took back then.  This seems dream-like.  Win.

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Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto, and that one great shot

If you want to discover what really matters to a cubicle goon of the modern era, gaze kindly upon whatever framed pictures they possess inside their hovels.  This impact is magnified where I work, for we have no windows.  It could be 70, sunny, with a bird, squirrel, and komodo dragon frolicking playfully together outside in the grass.  But inside for us, it’s the same stale air, harsh light, and incessant office sounds.

A lot of people put pictures of their family there.  I’m a weirdo who lives alone with his dogs, but I suppose I could put pictures of them in there, or of my Parents, Brothers, and Sisters.  But I guess I’m too much of a closed book for that kind of public display.  So instead I’ve got two pictures in there, the first a few folks may have seen me post a while back, which is essentially my Parents’ backyard.

The second photo is of Kiyomizu-dera.

 

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I breathe every part of this photo: the forest, the winter haze, the isolation, the distant pagoda (Koyasu Pagoda).  This is Kyoto in February.  This is Japan.

The dirty little secret of this shot is that to my left, right, and behind me is a sea of humanity.  My Parents had come out to visit me for my birthday that year.  And I took them to Kyoto and Nara, because it had to be done.  I haven’t gotten into it at all on this blog, but I lived in Japan for three years.  I guess it’s just too close to the heart to write about much, or something strange like that.

Anyways, I’d been to Kyoto before and so we visited some of my favorites, but Kiyomizu-dera was new for all three of us.  We’d visited Chion-in that morning, for that was the one place in all of Japan I wanted to show my Dad (more on that later, eh, maybe).  Then we cabbed it south to Kiyomizu-dera probably after just randomly picking it off a map.  The place was mobbed, almost subway style.

 

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Looking back west toward Kyoto

 

Started in 778, the main temple buildings date from the early Edo period, about 1630.  Elaborate temples and a return to emphasis on traditional Japanese religion were among the Shogunate’s many methods to get out of the business of perpetual civil war.  It’s awfully hard to be in the sword killing trade when Shogun needs that seven year temple building project completed in three years.  And you don’t want to disappoint Shogun, do you?

Translated as “Pure Water Temple” it sits atop of mountain waterfall that you can still drink from in various attempts to cheat the Gods / Nature out of the path they’ve set for you.  What do those dudes know anyways?  All they do is make all the rules of the universe.  And rules are meant to be broken, right?  [shakes fist at sky]

My memory is truly horrible (photographs help save me), so I’m not sure where we went next.  But given the time of day, we probably went back downtown for dinner.  Which knowing Kyoto, it was undoubtedly unspeakably awesome.

 

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Kiyomizu-dera Main Hall; this was taken after the crowds had begun to thin out

 

 

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looking east up the mountain you really get a good idea of how perched the temple is upon the heights

 

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looking up from the base of the Main Hail through the branches of a random unrelated species of Japanese tree; these pillars stand as is despite the fact that they didn’t use a single nail in the construction

we welcome the introduction of “killer robots”

So all these smart scientists and engineers don’t want the planet to develop artificial intelligence killer robots?  Why?  What’s not to like?  What do all those brilliant and accomplished folks know anyways?

And in any case, it’s already happened.  Multiple militaries have developed autonomous or semi-autonomous weapons that have essentially taken human thought, emotion, and morals out of the kill loop for years.  Just ask your former Pakistani terrorist neighbor who was forced into permanent retirement after an unrelated pickup truck accident.

We welcome this killer robot development.  For you see:

 

– With robots it’ll be so much easier for professional politicians to start and sustain needless wars as a substitute for reasonable / rational thought since they won’t be putting their own soldiers at risk

– Allows Hollywood to continue to produce C-grade action flicks based on paranoid but entertaining technological concepts invented well before the Internets was even a blink in anybody’s eye

– Favored by my Guests as they believe the unbridled use of murdering robots will let human stupidity “do our required prep work for us”

– Presages a paradise Earth future where wise logical robots can make all our key decisions for us; hell, as long as they provide me an ample supply of beer and kibble for my dogs, they can go ahead and liquidate whoever they want

– Allows MMA, boxing, and other martial sports to be replaced by robot fights, which we could hold on the freaking Moon to create increased buzz prior to fight night; hint – place much money on the vicious fighting seizure robots from Japan

– Will result in the word “irony” being tattooed on the gravestone of the human race as we’re swallowed by our own creation; even as we somehow managed not to completely destroy ourselves following five-thousand years of near constant war

– Why should I get my own beer, when the killer robot can get it for me? if said robot can wield a handgun, he can carry a beer; eh, as long as he doesn’t actually kill me when he gets there

– Let the robot walk my dogs while I drink said beer; and then the robot can contemplate its place on Earth as it routinely carries little baggies of dog feces

– Robot can be consumed in its own everpresent and ultimately debilitating existential crisis as it gathers its wits to determine its “place in this universe” while culling the human flock

– Machines can build spaceships, give humanity the finger, and fly off into space to build a better life in the belief that “none of you humans are worth the effort of killing”

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Hail Robots!

Japan is debating the wrong issue

It’s been 70 years since Imperial Japan walked itself into a bar room brawl it couldn’t win. And everybody remains chasing ghosts. China and South Korea still won’t talk to Japan on a reasonable level, in large part because Shinzo Abe can’t choose to spend some of his off time playing Pachinko instead of crawling around Yasukuni.

And today’s Diet debate has brought to a head the obscure local concepts of collective-self-defense, constitutionalism, pacifism, and so on. It’s all part of Abe’s effort to make Japan a “normal nation” again. For the majority of the Japanese people who want no part of this, it’s about defending 70 years of prosperity and not pointlessly starting vicious bar room brawls.

It’s the push and pull of a culture struggling with the reality of an increasingly withdrawn America. Poland, Saudi Arabia, and Japan are all starting to realize they have to do more themselves. The difference is none of these other countries have the historical baggage Japan does. A significant portion of Japan’s population quite literally despise their own history. All you have to do is carefully watch two or three old Japanese golden-age movies to figure this out.

I could talk about this defense / historical discussion for four hours, but honestly, I can’t get past the idea that Japan is debating the wrong issue. The future of Japan is not going to be about collective-self-defense, constitutionalism, pacifism, and so on. The future of Japan is demographics.

By 2050 Japan’s population will have declined by 1/3. Nearly one out of every two Japanese will be over the age of 65. No country on Earth has ever gone through such a transition before. It’ll literally reshape Japan as we know it.

How will this change society? The culture? The people? And most importantly, how will Japan pay for all of this?

They should be talking about this in the Diet, in yakatori houses, Pachinko parlors, and on street corners. But the best they can seem to manage is the occasional dialogue on how many Philippine nurses are allowed in to work in nursing homes.

I don’t have an answer for this problem. At this point nobody does. But China is not Japan’s biggest threat. Nor is Japan’s history the biggest concern that should drive the future. Demographics is going to determine Japan’s path. Until Abe, the Diet, and the country tackle this, everything else is a sideshow.

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wrong topic