Day 6 of  The A to Z  Blogging Challenge

F is for Fuji-san

At 12. 237 feet. I made it!
At 12. 237 feet. I made it!

The adrenalin pumped through me as I accepted the challenge of taking on a night climb up Fuji-san. For someone with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a vision disorder characterized by night blindness and restricted peripheral vision, climbing Japan’s highest mountain either showed great foolishness or a leap of faith — hopefully not one off the mountain!

To train myself, I trekked up winding roads to area shrines for weeks. On the night of the big climb, I donned warm clothing even though it was August. At 12, 337 feet, I knew I’d be thankful.

Wisely, I’d secured a mining light to wear on my head for extra lighting. Unzipping a pouch, I threw in some yen to buy soba, the steaming buckwheat noodles climbers slurp up just before the climb. 

Lemon wedges, bottled water, a pack of cookies and an extra sweatshirt filled out my small backpack.  Of course, right away I purchased a walking stick like many nationals did to aid them in their journey.

Hakone, 6:30 pm. 5th Station. The climbing started here.

My heart beat erratically at the challenge before me.  I recalled the words of my Japanese boyfriend, the only one I’d told about my vision loss.  “Chotto matte, kudasai” he’d said, “Vely danger. You no see good to put your foots. Maybe you fall. Maybe you lose the mountain,” he said, trying to talk me out of it.

I didn’t want to “wait a minute, please” and he couldn’t talk me out of it. “I can do this. Besides, how can I lose a mountain?” I teased. He looked confused. “I won’t get lost,” I reassured him.

At first the climb seemed painless. Bright lights shone on the pathway. Hordes of people milled about. Laughter abounded. Friends chatted. Old people jogged past me. I easily wound my way around the broad slope.

As the path grew progressively steeper, I slowed down and aimed my miner’s light at different angles. I’m so slow and clumsy. Everyone is passing me up! “I can do this,” I reminded myself.

About midnight, I became less certain. My legs wobbled and the eye strain was getting to me.

The pathway narrowed. Volcanic ash stood out like boulders looming ahead. With one hand I grasped onto volcanic sediment and bare roots, pulling myself up. The other clutched my stick.

A small Japanese man passed me, calling out cheerfully, “Gambatte kudasai!” Do your best! Buoyed by his support,  I watched his figure vanish from view and continued on.

Fuji-san’s picture perfect. snow-capped image faded. Up close, it looked ugly–barren volcanic littered with rubbish.

In the wee hours, someone pushed me and I fell down between two boulders. I lay there for a few minute before attempting to move. No one even noticed I’d fallen! Shocked, tears welled up in my eyes.

God, you let me fall!

A brief check of my body parts told me I wasn’t injured, so I got up again. Please, Lord,  let me pass the dangerous areas safely.

Sometimes when God answers prayer, He responds immediately. I found myself in the middle of a traffic jam on the mountain in the 2 am shadows. We all inched forward in unison like ants on a stick. It dawned on me, tightly sandwiched between climbers, that danger of me falling had decreased dramatically.

God, you crack me up!  

I continued pacing myself. The altitude made me light-headed and I stopped briefly, fearing another fall if I got too dizzy. My breath came in ragged gasps in the higher altitude.

At around 7:30 am, the majestic peak of Fuji-san emerged from the cloudy vapor.

I crumpled my flag into a ball, touching the ground with the fiery red circle of Japan’s emblem and then to my heart before tying it back on the walking stick. It seemed fitting. I’d reached all 12,376 feet!

Sixteen hours after I began the climb, I arrived backto  Hakone. Not only was it the base of the mountain, it was famous for natural hot spring baths. Steeped in the steamy muddied o’furo, I massaged my bruised and tender muscles. It was worth it!

God, we made it. I knew you’d help me if I only had faith.

When I closed my eyes, I imagined God saying, “Stay with me, kid,” jabbing me in the ribs. “We got a lotta places to see yet.”

Can you think of a time and circumstance when you wanted to  do something and others tried to discourage you — but you went ahead and did it anyway? Was it worth it? Would you make the same decision? 

You have just read, “F is for Fuji-san,” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright Apri l6, 2015.You can see who else is participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge HERE.

F is for Fuji-san
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23 thoughts on “F is for Fuji-san

  • April 6, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    OK, that was inspiring. And a bit scary. Your writing really took me along with you on this trek!

    Blessings and thank you for giving God the glory.

  • April 6, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Very inspiring story, Amy – well done for completing what you’d set out to do! It must be wonderful to have had that experience – thank you for sharing it!

  • April 7, 2015 at 1:35 am

    Such an inspirational and thrilling post. I enjoyed reading your journey to Fujisan.

  • April 7, 2015 at 3:10 am

    Hi Amy,

    You are SUCH an inspiration to me, a person who is losing her sight as I age. I’m already legally blind in the left eye, with poor eyesight remaining in the right eye. I can barely drive by day, and no longer feel comfortable or safe enough to drive at night.

    To climb a mountain…. girl – you are AMAZING, and I am so proud of you. Thank you for continuing to inspire me and others.

    – Bonnie

  • April 7, 2015 at 5:22 am

    I love that message of “Do your best!” I’m so glad you got those words when you needed them!

  • April 7, 2015 at 5:57 am

    Congratulations on making it to the top! I can understand how you feel – 10 years ago, we climbed Kinabalu in Borneo. It was an achievement – not one I will ever repeat, but we did it!

  • April 7, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Wow Amy, what an exciting and terrifying adventure. When I read that you fell, I paused before I went on, hoping you were uninjured, and relieved to find you were. So brave and determined. Congratulations.

  • April 7, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    Thank you, Laurel! 😀
    Yes, it’s one of the highlights of my time in Japan.
    So grateful for that eperience

  • April 7, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Thank you, Jennifer!
    So glad you liked my story. I’m putting a longer version of it into a book I am writing. 😀

  • April 7, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    Thank you, Bonnie!
    I appreciate your kind words.
    Come back to read more of my adventures. 😀

  • April 8, 2015 at 12:01 am

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Yes, it’s a very encouraging message and you are so right, I got it just when I needed it.
    I couldn’t believe how many elderly people climbed Mt Fuji. There is a saying there. Climb it once and you’ll be wise. Climb it twice and you’re a fool! Ha ha! It’s a bucket list thing for many Japanese!

  • April 8, 2015 at 12:04 am

    Hi Anabel,
    Kinbalu in Borneo? Oh, I’ll have to ask about that mountain. My friend lived there in a mining camp when he was doing his PhD. He is an anthropologist. I think there is also another mountain in Indonesia that I started to climb. I have to try to remember the name of that.
    Congratulations on climbing Kinbalu!!!
    Take care and please come back to read some more of my stories!

  • April 8, 2015 at 12:06 am

    Thank you!!! Ha ha! I didn’t dare tell my boyfriend who thought that I was lucky to make it back in one piece!
    It was a good experience. I climbed it twice, once each year I lived there. I love my walking sticks!!
    Thank your for visiting and please come back for more stories.

  • April 8, 2015 at 4:47 am

    Hi April,
    So glad I found this message! Somehow it went directly into my SPAM folder. But I check it pretty frequently and found it!
    Thank you so much for taking time out to read and comment on my trek up Fuji-san. And yes, God deserves all the glory.
    Please do come back and visit again!

  • April 8, 2015 at 6:52 am

    So gorgeous, Amy. I love this post on so many levels from your usual (always lovely) descriptions to “God, you let me fall” and “God, you crack me up.” So enjoy this series.

  • April 8, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Hey Amy!

    That was a great story on not giving up!!

    As they say in Ireland, “more power to your elbow” and I truly believe you are an inspiration to all 🙂

    Congrats on reaching the top – and making it safely back down!!

  • April 8, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    “God, you crack me up!”

    What an exciting and inspiring read! God does have an amazing sense of humor. I’m glad He gave you a crowd when you needed it. You’ve inspired my W post as “Walk By Faith.” My vision is horrible, worse at night. But once, without corrective lenses so the world was a blur, I followed God’s urging and led my friends to the place we wanted even though we didn’t know we wanted it.

    Thanks for visiting me at I’m so happy to have found your blog.

  • April 8, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Oh cool. Sounds like God showed you how perfect His timing is for everything!!!

  • April 8, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    What an inspiring read! I have never climbed any mountains. I have never done anything as amazing as this. But reading this, I was up there with you.

    It has inspired me to live a little more. If I can.


  • April 8, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    HI Mark,

    Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it!
    I have never heard that expression, “More power to your elbow,” and like it!

    Thanks for stopping by and visit again!


  • April 9, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    Hi Amy,

    What an exciting story! With the night blindness, you probably were completely blind while climbing. Did your walking stick also double as a cane? You didn’t need blind shades–er sleep shades rather–for that mobility training. And the poet in me appreciates this line: “We all inched forward in unison like ants on a stick.”


  • April 9, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Hi Matt,
    I call that my pre-cursor to a cane! I couldn’t see well but remember in those days I had a little more vision than I do now. SO a mining light helped me somewhat. Ha ha! That was exactly what it felt like, ants inching forward!
    Thank you so much for taking time to read this post, Matt!

  • April 9, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    Thank you, Tonia.
    Glad you are enjoying the series. 😀

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