credit: Mark Bibby Jackson
Today is Day Three. Already most of my pre-conceptions have been obliterated. Forget the grey, concrete jungle that is Tokyo and neighbouring Yokohama, Japan is a green and pleasant land. At the centre of the main island of Honshu towers the magnificent Mount Fuji – or Fuji-san as the Japanese call it.
As a child when you drew a picture of a volcano, this was it. The previous day we had timed our visit to perfection. The slightly menacing clouds dispersed to be replaced by crisp wintry blue skies, that revealed the perfect snow-capped crusting that resembles a Christmas pudding. From spring to autumn the more adventurous choose to trek to the summit, while in winter months some foolhardy skiers take to the slopes, often with fatal consequences.
We opt for the slightly easier ascent to the viewing point at the Arakura Fuji Shengen Shrine. The cherry trees below might not be in bloom, but the autumnal hues more than compensate, and as the sun starts to swiftly fade beneath horizon, the sky explodes in a brilliance that defies Japan’s nomenclature as the land of the rising sun.
That night we rested at the Hoshinoya Fuji, a resort beside Lake Kawaguchi at the foot of Fuji-san, that claims to be Japan’s first glamping centre. Never a fan of spending a night under canvas – a cold February night just outside Colchester still etched deep on my psyche – I have yet to try camping’s glamorous younger cousin. However, all misgivings are soon swept away, as I am led to my personal pod – a concrete structure that is as far removed from my previous experiences as the glorious breakfast I am served the following morning is from mugs of sweet tea and stale bacon sarnies.
A range of salads, pickles, soups, green tea, apple juice and the obligatory mackerel are spread out on my terrace overlooking the mountain, a heated blanket to keep off the slight frost in the air. Delivered in a back-pack and served in small metal containers, this is the closest I will get to actual camping. Together with the fresh air and breath-taking view, this really is the ideal way to start the day. Energised I take on the morning’s activity, donning my checked shirt to chop up some wood that will be used to fuel the bonfire. To my dyspraxic amazement I hit the middle of the stump at the first attempt, the timber splintering into two, as I ponder whether I too could have been a lumberjack just like my dear papa.