Finnish summary: (English version at the end of the mail)
Japanissa on runsaasti vuoria, ja niistä kuuluisin on Tokion lähellä sijaitseva Fuji (富士山), entinen tulivuori joka ei kuitenkaan ole ollut aktiivinen pitkään aikaan. Fuji on myös Japanin korkein vuori, 3776 metriä merenpinnasta ja lähellä ei ole muita edes likimain yhtä korkeita huippuja. Viime maanantaina kiipesimme huipulle labran tutkijan Kubon kanssa.
Suurin osa menee bussilla 2300 metrin korkeuteen, mutta me lähdimme matkaan jo noin 1000 metristä. Alkuosa polusta oli metsäistä ja hiljaista, hämähäkinverkkojen alut viittasivat siihen että olimme ainoat alhaalta asti vaeltajat sinä päivänä. Ylempänä maasto muuttui kivisemmäksi ja muitakin kiipeäjiä oli runsaasti, tosin ei mitään kohtuutonta ruuhkaa kuten viikonloppuisin. Fuji on ehkä räikein esimerkki siitä miten vaelluksesta tehdään bisnestä, väkimassojen myötä rinteille on rakennettu suuri joukko majoja joissa voi yöpyä, syödä ja juoda, ja huipulla on jopa postitoimisto josta voi lähettää kortteja tuttaville. Varsin erilainen kokemus siis kuin suurin osa muista vuorista, mutta ehdottomasti käynnin arvoinen.
Perinteisin tapa valloittaa Fuji on kiivetä yöllä, saapuen huipulle juuri ennen auringonnousua. Me teimme kuitenkin hiukan toisin, kävimme huipulla iltapäivällä ja vietimme yön yhdessä rinteellä olevista majoista, katsoen auringonnousua sen ulkopuolelta 3250 metrin korkeudesta. Kuvia on ainakin väliaikaisesti tarjolla osoitteessa
Hiukan aiemmin vietin pari hienoa päivää Kanazawan lähellä merenrannalla. Heinäkuun loppu ja elokuun alku on parasta aikaa, sää on pääosin aurinkoinen, vesi lämmintä ja polttavia meduusoita ei vielä juurikaan ole. Uimisen ja auringosta nauttimisen lisäksi kokeilin hiukan kaverin vuokraamaa vesijettiä ja olin kertaalleen sukeltamassa ostereita erään toisen kaverin kanssa.
Heinäkuun loppu on Japanissa ilotulitusten aikaa. Käytännössä joka viikonloppu on ilotulituksia eri puolilla Japania, hienoin itse näkemäni oli lähes puolentoista tunnin näytös Fukuissa Phoenix- festivaalin aikana. Pienempiä tulitteita myydään myös supermarketeissa ja ihmisillä on yksityisiä ilotulitusjuhlia samaan tapaan kuin uutena vuotena Suomessa.
Tänään olen lähdössä viikon lomalle Hokkaidolle (北海道), pohjoisimmalle Japanin neljästä pääsaaresta. Sen jälkeen työskentelen vielä kolme viikkoa diplomityöni parissa ja palaan Suomeen 20. syyskuuta. Tämä onkin luultavasti viimeinen matkakirje ennen kuin heitän jäähyväiset Japanille. Jatkan kuitenkin Suomessa vielä kesken jääneitä matkakertomuksia, joten Japani-aiheista materiaalia on tiedossa vielä syksyllä. Tässä vaiheessa totean vain että on ollut hieno vuosi ja tulen kaipaamaan monia asioita, samaan aikaan toisaalta on mukavaa nähdä perhe ja ystävät taas Suomessa.
Japan has a fair number of mountains raising over 2000 meters and some over 3000 meters of altitude. Many of them are volcanic and have onsens (natural hot springs) nearby - first climbing a mountain and then soaking in an onsen is widely considered the best escape from city life. It is even a sort of religious activity for some, mountains being considered as sacred. On the other hand, most of the peaks have been made easily accessible by car, so that conquering them can be a convenient one day family trip. Hikers seeking large areas of unspoiled nature are better off in some other country, but many mountains in Japan offer varying and beautiful scenery nevertheless.
The most famous of all is of course Mount Fuji (富士山), located near Tokyo. It is also the highest, a huge volcanic cone raising to 3776 meters in solitude, with no other peaks even close to the same height nearby. So when assistant Kubo at the lab suggested climbing it together, I gladly accepted the offer. One of the other students was planning to come but had to cancel at the last moment.
We left Kanazawa Sunday evening by car, driving some 350 kilometers through the night and having one longer break for sleeping at a parking area. A bit before eight o'clock Monday morning we were at our destination, at the start of the Yoshidaguchi climbing trail. Most of the people take a bus to the fifth station located at 2300 meters, but we had decided to climb the whole way from the car park at 1000 meters. A quick visit to a shrine and then on the track.
The first thousand meters of altitude were forest and the path quiet, some spider webs suggesting that we were probably the only ones skipping the bus and going on all the way on foot that day. The weather was cloudy, and for some time we were walking inside the cloud. Fortunately the clouds were not very thick and we emerged to sunshine at about 2300 meters of altitude. From that point on there were also many other hikers, although not huge crowds like on weekends. A considerable number of the people were foreigners.
Climbing went without major surprises, the path was rocky at times but still relatively easy, at least with good hiking shoes. From 3000 meters onwards the thinner air took its toll on the speed, but we reached the top at around four in the afternoon well on schedule. Actually, the traditional way to climb Fuji is to do it at night, arriving to the top just before sunrise, but we had a slightly different plan.
Mt. Fuji is a perfect example of making mountain climbing a business. There are plenty of huts on the way and if you'd like to buy some food or a drink the next place is never more than a few hundred meters away. At the top you can go to a shrine or even send a card at the post office! However, by the time we got there the office was already closed. It is also possible to walk around the crater and get an unobstructed view to all directions. This time it was a bit cloudy even at the top level but occasionally clear, so that we could see the vast sea of clouds below us at 2000 meters of altitude.
After the tour around the peak we descended to 3250 meters to one of the mountain lodges offering a place to stay. During the descent the sun was setting and for a while we could see the shadow of Mt. Fuji on the cloud sea below us, quite impressive. Kubo had actually worked at the hut during summer when being university student 15 years ago, and the place is still run by the same family. We were warmly welcomed and even got a special discount of the normal price.
During the night the wind got stronger and the weather turned cloudier, blocking our plan to watch the stars. Instead we had some sleep and later sat watching other climbers struggling their way up, many being a bit unprepared for the coldness. The hut was on the right side for the sunrise so we didn't start climbing again. Well, I was somewhat interested in going to the top just for doing the traditional thing, but eventually didn't - at least I had already been there. The sunrise was at five o'clock and I guess it's enough to say it was beautiful. Instead of words I point you to the pictures, which are at least temporarily at
(Warning, there are a lot of pictures, I haven't had yet time to go through them and select the best ones.)
Earlier I had some nice days on the beach near Kanazawa. Late July and early August is the best time to go, weather being mostly fine, water warm and medusas not yet too numerous and big. I went twice with Masaki, one of my Japanese friends who seems to go to the sea almost every weekend. He also loves watersports and occasionally rents a jet ski, so I had a chance to try that as well. Actually in Japan one needs a special license to ride one so it was illegal (for me, Masaki has the license), but I just had to try a little bit. We also used the jet ski to pull a wakeboard, a snowboard like thing for water skiing, great fun. One more new and nice experience was diving oysters with Kamei, another Japanese friend.
In August there was also a conference of the Society of Instrument and Control Engineers (SICE) which was related to my research. I presented by first ever scientific paper there. If you are interested in snowfall observation and databases, the preprint is available at
The SICE conference was conveniently timed with the Phoenix festival in Fukui, which had among other things an almost one and a half hour shooting of fireworks. Summer is the season of fireworks in Japan, almost every weekend there is a "hanabitaikai" (花火大会, fireworks gathering) somewhere not too far away. These events are also the best occasion to see many people wearing beautiful yukatas, traditional Japanese clothing.
Smaller fireworks are also sold in normal supermarkets and people have their own private parties like Finns at New Year's eve. Interestingly in this otherwise so security concious country, it is common to hold the items in hand and wave them around, spreading sparkling fireballs almost on other participants. I wonder how many eye injuries and other damages are recorded each year - perhaps not so many after all because otherwise that kind of activity would most likely be stopped.
Today I'm leaving for a one week vacation in Hokkaido (北海道), the northernmost of the four main islands of Japan. After coming back, I will have three more weeks of intensive work on my master's thesis, and then return to Finland on September 20th. Therefore this is probably the last travel newsletter before saying goodbye to Japan. I will continue working on my unfinished travel stories in Finland, so you can expect to hear about some Japanese things still during the rest of year 2003. For now, I just say that it has been a nice and memorable year and I'll miss many things, while simultaneously looking forward to meet my family and friends again in Finland.
Arto Teräs --- See http://www.iki.fi/ajt/ for contact info
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