Sunday, July 23, 2006


So after getting my arse handed to me by a great bloody mountain, I went to see Coldplay with my girlfriend, at the Nippon Budokan. Now, I'm not really much of a Coldplay fan, and I was really horrendously exhausted from my attempt at Fuji, but even so, I enjoyed the show. It was what you'd expect from a modern rock concert, backed by lots of label money: lights, video effects, giant yellow balloons filled with gold glitter falling from the ceiling. The frontman, whose name I can't be bothered googling, struck me as being right on the edge of offensively arrogant, but the rest of the band rocked out pretty hard. It was a good show, and I'm glad I'm went.

But there's one thing I feel bears mentioning about concerts in this country: there's no floor admission. Everyone is given an assigned seat, and expected to damn well sit there for the duration. The Japanese are big on this (the faster trains, and almost every movie theater, all involve assigned seating.) For the most part this isn't a big deal, but at a concert!? Well okay, if you're going to a Beethoven symphony, but for rock? People are supposed to be standing, moving, dancing ... there's supposed to be a mosh pit packed up in front of the stage, with the lucky getting crowdsurfed and the unlucky getting trampled. The chaos is all part of the energy, part of the experience of going to a rock concert.

To be fair, pretty much everyone was standing, clapping in time with the music, singing along, but still ... it all seemed just a bit, I dunno, micromanaged. I love this country, but sometimes these people need to learn how to let go a little.

Friday, July 21, 2006

In Which Fuji Kicks My Ass

Okay, so it's been a while since I've posted. Frankly my life's been a combination of lots of work/little of interest, so there hasn't been much time to blog nor much to blog about. Last weekend, however, was most certainly blog-worthy.

We (my friend V., my girlfriend S., and myself) had been planning to climb Fuji on the 18th for a while. The idea was to do a night climb, and be on the summit to great the Sun as it rose over the Pacific ocean and revealed the Japanese landscape in all it's glory. To this end, the day before S. and I went shopping (I got a backpack, gortex Nike hiking boots, and a rainjacket. I eschewed rainpants, a choice I would later heartily regret when my girlfriend, clad in a full body gortex rainsuit, escaped from the mountain merely damp.)

Now, late July is supposed to be prime Fuji-climbing season: not so hot as August, but still relatively sunny. Unfortunately, the rainy season is un-naturally long-lived this year - it's still going in full force - and by the time we arrived at the mountain (halfway up, at the 5th station) the wind was in full gale force and the rain was coming in horizontally. The fact that the bus we arrived in was utterly devoid of natives (except for my poor girlfriend, trapped with the crazy gaijin) should have warned us that today was not a good day for a hike.

We spent twenty minutes or so at the station, buying supplies (food, cold tea to supplement the red bulls I'd brought, souveneir walking sticks that have little Japanese flags on the them and on which you can get stamps burned as you reach each successive station), and generally getting ready. Then we set off.

We lasted about two hours, finally reaching the 7th station. The rain did not stop. The wind just got fiercer. None of us are in excellent shape, exactly, but neither are we cancer-ward patients or morbidly obese couch potatoes. Still, a mere two hours in these conditions had left us soaked (except for my girlfriend) and frozen, and by the time we reached an open hut at the 7th station we decided to nip in for a bite to eat and a warm fire. As often happens under such conditions, once there we elected to stay the night (you know how it goes: once one person says, screw it, go on without me, the rest of the group followed.) It didn't help our motivation that, the weather being what it was, even if we reached the summit we wouldn't see the sunrise.

After we'd been at the hut about thirty minutes or so a couple of Americans showed up. One of them was a Navy consultant, a giant beefy guy who looks to be in prime shape. The fact that they pussed out at exactly the same spot we did made me feel like a bit less of a pussy.

The climb down the next day was terrible. The wind had died down, but the rain was so heavy it was like we were swimming; by the time we reached the bottom, my pants had absorbed 20 pounds of water and my gortex hiking boots had become water-bags. It was the knowledge that Fuji had won, though, that really busted our morale; my friend V. was particularly pissy on the way down, as she's going back to Canada soon and this was her last chance to climb Fuji.

Not me, though. I'm going back in August, when the weather improves. Up yours, Fuji. You ain't playin' me like that. You're goin' DOWN.