It is a lazy rainy Saturday afternoon today. A while back my parents sent a box of things that contained some memorabilia from my two trips to Japan.
These pictures were taken in August of 1985. I was 17 years old. I am standing on top of Mt Fuji (12,388Ft) in my bleached out levi’s, way too thin wind breaker (temperature was hovering around freezing), and my Purple Converse Chuck E. Taylor’s.
I had just arrived in Japan a few days beforehand. I was seriously jet lagged. It takes roughly two days to climb to the top, so we stayed in one of the many huts that my host family had arranged for us to stay in. We had an early evening meal with what I can best remember to be a chicken curry. I got very sick from the food and was up all night from the jet lag and the rumbling in my guts. Just about the time I was falling back asleep, they woke us up at 2AM to finish the ascent to the top so we could see the sunrise from the top. All I wanted to do was go back to sleep, but I thought this is my only chance at doing this, I might as well push on.
As I was hiking to the top in a dazed and confused stupor, I slowly began to gain an energy that I hadn’t had previously. I became calmer and even though I was freezing, cold, and half awake, I felt great.
When we got to the top, the sun was just starting to peak over the horizon. What happened next will be seared into my brain forever. Standing about a dozen feet to my left was a Buddhist monk in a saffron colored robe. He was standing next to the main hut at the top. It was the first time I had ever seen a Buddhist monk. I tried not to stare, but he fascinated me to no end. He was obviously deep in contemplation and was reciting some sort of prayer in almost a whisper. Just then the sun crested the horizon and it was like it pierced something in me. I looked over at the monk and he stared at me and with some of the most determined eyes I think I have ever seen said to me, “Wakari masu ka?” (Do you understand?). BAM! Yes….Yes I did. For a few moments I did understand completely. I replied back “Wakari masu” (I do understand). It was incredible. I was there on top of Mt Fuji, and yet I wasn’t.
As my host brothers and I hiked back down the hill, I felt like I was floating. We got to the train station and I had two big blisters on my heels where my Chuck E Taylor’s had done their damage. I smiled.