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Lennon's Room: A Place for Kids - My Trip to Mt. Fuji

by Christopher Rudow, age 14

In July 1997 I went to a Christian camp on the slopes of Mt. Fuji, Japan. I was born in Japan and homeschooled there, but this was my first visit to Mt. Fuji. The camp was a center for other homeschooled children, where they could make friends and go on outings.

A bus was chartered to take us to the camp and I traveled with about twenty kids my age. We arrived on the lower slopes of Mt. Fuji three hours later. Once there, we waited with bated breath to find out who would get the cabins and who would get the tents. Sadly, all girls moved into the cabins, and we boys faced the rigors of tent life. We had arrived at the camp in the late afternoon, so we all went to eat and to take osento, which is the Japanese term for a huge tub filled with blistering hot water, which you sit in for however long you can survive before leaping out) gasping. Actually, once you get used to the temperature, it can be very relaxing.

One thing that was the high point of camp life was the eating arrangements. Every day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there was a large buffet available. For those of you who have lived in the USA all of your lives, this may not sound very special) but an all-you-can-eat meal in Japan is a real treat! A typical breakfast would be broiled fish, sukemono (Japanese pickled vegetables), nato (fermented beans-not for the faint hearted!), and rice with either a raw egg cracked on it, or eaten plain. Of course, there was always the western-style breakfast, with plenty of orange juice.

The next morning, at 6:00 am, we learned that we were expected to arise with the sun and proceed to the flagpole to herald the new day and raise the Japanese flag. First, the over-seer of the camp would make a speech, which I unfortunately could not understand as it was in formal Japanese. Then the flag would be raised and the anthem would be played.

Thankfully this ceremony was not too demanding, as some of us were still half asleep!

That morning we found out that a trip would be leaving the next day to climb Mt. Fuji and we were invited to join it! This was the event we bad been waiting for, and we were very excited. The rest of that day we had a Bible study and various united activities outside) such as soccer, tag, hide-and-go-seek, etc. There was also a gym, much to the delight of the boys, with basketball, rope climbing) and a trampoline.

Thankfully, it didn't rain again and the next day's weather was very good. We were told that there would be another attempt to climb the mountain that day. However, only seven people, myself included, wanted to try again. We started once more up the mountain. Mt. Fuji, a dormant volcano, is the highest peak in Japan, standing 12,389 ft. above sea level. It is the second most perfectly conical shaped mountain in the world. However, the bottom is so gently sloping that a road was built halfway up the mountain. Every five miles or so there is a rest stop, or station , for tourists to rest at, buy souvenirs, etc. We went to the fifth station, the highest one. It is 8,000 ft. above sea level, and there was quite a view!

From there we went on foot to the trails. Some trails lead straight up the mountain, and others wind around. We were told that the trails leading to the summit were closed, as there was still a dangerous amount of snow and ice on them. So we chose to follow the trail that led to a smaller crater caused by the last eruption about 400 years ago. After hiking several miles, we came to the crater-complete with benches in it! Here we stopped for a much-needed rest, as the air is very thin at that altitude, and we were all out of breath. I followed a trail over a ridge and saw the whole valley spread out below me. In some there were thick layers of cloud, and it was very cool! We had to go back down then, but before we left I took some volcanic rock as a souvenir. That night we had a fun dance, where we played all sorts of funny games.

No one wanted to go home the next day.

As we boarded the bus I thought of the good time I had had-Yes, washed-out tents and all.

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