Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mt. Fuji

This day we would travel for about 4 hours to  Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park to visit the tallest mountain in Japan; Mt. Fuji (3776 m or 12,388 feet).  If you have never been to a snow capped mountain up close then you can not understand how majestic it is to see.  As we were driving along the route it seemed as if all of a sudden the mountain just popped up out of no where.

By tour bus we would travel up the Yoshida route to the 4th station 2305 meters (7562.3 feet or 1.4 miles) above sea level as close to the summit as we could get for the time of year we were visiting.  Our view of the summit was gorgeous, covered in snow, with the sun over top.  A slight wind would blow the snow causing a cloud effect.  

At this location there was a restaurant and a few shops to purchase souvenirs and a Shinto temple, from this location near the summit we could also view the mountain rage across the way, referred to as the Japanese Alps by our guide, this mountain range added to the vista.

As we left Mt. Fuji we would now go to Hakone and ride a cable car into the fog to catch another view of Mt. Fuji, however due to the fog we barely could see each other never mind any views.

Of course the fog cleared as we boarded the ferry taking us to the other side of one of the five lakes that surround Mt. Fuji.  This ride on the ferry also gave us some great views of Mt. Fuji within the mountain range, during sunset.  It was breathtaking and not even the chilly 40 degree weather deterred us from enjoying being outside.

Welcome to Japan, now be quiet

We arrived to Yokohama, Japan as with most other ports I met with ED on the outer deck to watch our entry into the port.  And watch one of the most amazing sunrises of the voyage.  

Is it any wonder the Japanese refer to their homeland as the Empire of the sun.  As the sun came up, we could see the majestic Mt. Fuji with a rose colored glow as the sun reflected its rays off the snow capped mountain.  As the ship pulled in to its birth we were met with Japanese drummers, mostly women, playing on large drums.   

We enjoyed this only for a few minutes as we were aware that the clearing of the ship in Japan was going to be a unique experience.  As a member of the Living Learning Team, it was our responsibility in most ports to assist with passport distribution and distribution of other important documents necessary for our shipboard community to travel within the country we were visiting.  In India we had to ensure each of our community members had a shore pass, as was the case in Vietnam.  If these documents (shore passes) were lost, than the person who they belonged to would not be able to leave for the ship for the duration of our stay.  This actually happened to a couple of students.

 In Japan the whole process of passport distribution and preparation to disembark was different.  Prior to our arrival in Yokohama as a team we were trained by the medical team to take the temperature of each of our community members, which was a requirement of the Japanese government.  The Japanese would quarantine any member that had an above average temperature, their prevention of spreading the H1N1 virus into their country. Once we arrived to Yokohama, the Living Learning Team was dispatched into the port terminal and given assignments.  Some were to direct students through immigration, others were to hand out their passports and custom forms in the terminal (this was usually done on the ship), and I was assigned the task of informing the members of our shipboard community the following:

“behind me you will collect your passport from another team member, as usual by you ship id number, you will then form a single line facing forward only and will be directed by another LLC to get through immigration, once you clear immigration, you will walk about 20 feet and clear customs, at that point you can wait in the terminal to re board the ship or leave the terminal, this must be done in complete silence.  Any questions you might have please direct only to a terminal agent.  Please remove your hats and sunglasses and again I remind you COMPLETE SILENCE”

I must have given those instructions 100 times at least.  Of course there were some people that objected to being quiet, I would remind them that we are here as guests and if they have questions about the guidelines they should address them with the Japanese officials.  The process took a few hours and finally our ship was cleared.  

Once we were clear I along with 4 of my colleagues headed into Yokohama on foot to get our train tickets for the Shinkansen which we would take two evenings later from Tokyo to Kobe.  On our way to the train station we passed Chinatown ( I thought to myself, damn a Chinatown in Japan, now I seen it all).  After we purchased our tickets, PL and I decided to walk to the ferris wheel and possibly go for a ride to get an arial view of Yokohama.

As we got closer to the ferris wheel the sun started to go down and it got a little colder and we realized we had no cash on us so opted out.  We walked through a mall and around the amusement park and then decided to head back to the ship, having had a full day of walking.  We very much enjoyed our personal tour of the Yokohama water front.  Tomorrow we were off on a tour of Mt. Fuji