Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Canadian Who Went Up a Train Platform and Came Down a Mountain

So Thursday I decided I need to get out of Tokyo, or at least out of downtown Tokyo. Thanks to Google Earth, I knew that the western-most portion of Tokyo Prefecture, specifically the area near the town of Takao, rather abruptly transitioned from dense semi-urban landscape to dense, hilly jungle. Expecting to do some strolling through small town streets and, maybe, a bit of of the surrounding hills, I pakced my backpack (which contained my Japanese books, a jug of water, and my camera, which I am NEVER leaving behind again!) and took the hour and a half long ride on the Chuo Line Rapid from Shinjuku to Takao.

But by the end of the day I had climbed a mountain-- namely, the 599 meter Mount Takao. It started innocently enough. After walking through the towns near Takao station, I came across a sign displaying a map of nearby trails. As I was hoping for a chance to actually travel into the forested hills, as opposed to merely admiring them from afar, I was thrilled. I arrogantly dismissed the peaks 599 meter height, the main trail's 3.8 kilometer length and the estimated 90 minute climbing time. After all, I'm losing weight I think, and I used to go sporadically to Tae Kwon Do so I have the nubile body of a long distance gymnast!* More seriously, I saw this a sort of dress rehearsal for my climb up Mount Fuji, which I have to get done during August while facilities are still open. So, I began the climb. I estimate that during the first kilometer, I climbed about half the mountain's height, an average grade of about 33%. Even assuming I only climbed a third of the height, that's still a 20% grade. Keep in mind that the steepest hills on, say, the Pemberton run are at about a 13% grade. And I was doing this on foot.

Given Tokyo's lovely summertime combination of heat and humidity, my clothes were drenched in sweat as a result of this climb. It was so bad that I actually went to a washroom, ran my shirt under water, rang it out and, while still damp, wore it. Three times. I figured my shirt is gonna be drenched anyway, so it may as well be drenched with water and not sweat.

I actually considered giving up, not knowing at the time just how hard this climb is really considered to be and just how much of an accomplishment it is to climb it, even if I am stopping every fifty-to-one hundred meters to take a break. But I realized that if I'm gonna make the leap in climbing Fuji, I'd better not quit on some rinky dink little mountain like this. So, after two hours of climbing (partly for breaks, partly for sightseeing) I made my way to the summit. As I neared the top, nearly every passerby greeted me. One lady even yelled out "HEROO!" while waving her hands enthusiatically. Was it because of special understanding, a bond, formed between those who climbed the mountain on foot? Was it tradition to greet everyone you meet along this particular passage? Was it because of the oft-noted politeness of the Japanese people? Am I just being melodramatic about this? Whatever the case. . . I kinda lost my train of thought, so here's some videos. If you really squint, you can see downtown Tokyo fifty kilometers distant in some of these shots.

*I case you're wondering, yes, that term is meaningless.


Naomi said...

Looks like a beautiful area! How soon until you tackle Mt. Fuji:?

Jeremy K. said...

I'm gonna try to head off this
Wednesday (Tuesday in PG). I'll let you know when my Facebook account has been created as well.

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