It’s funny how the simplest of things can become the greatest of things in our lives. A passing comment from one individual can turn into a favorite of another. It makes me think of how little kids develop their favorites in life… Is it simply because their parents say something about that item, and they give it the right kind of encouragement that the child believes it is worth loving, and so the object becomes a child’s favorite of its kind?
What brought up the idea as a whole for me, though, is where I’m walking right now.
I’m on a path that goes alongside the river and the sports activities park in the town where I once lived in Japan.
As I walked up the stairs a few minutes ago, tears were burning my eyes, I was so elated.
A time in my life that I had simultaneously loved and hated with a passion, and here I am overflowing with joy at being able to come back and visit. Who I am now is nowhere near the person I was when I lived here, and that person is even different from the person who moved here.
I came to take a break. I didn’t want to be a teacher like I had been doing anymore.
I didn’t know what to do with myself.
But I had a feeling of wanting to get out… I wasn’t sure from what, if it was just the job, or the future of such a job, or the city, culture, or even, now that I can look back with different eyes, who I was and who I was being at the time.
Whatever the case, I decided to get out of the country. I came to Japan with a highly recommended, highly valued, highly honored, and very poorly paid job.
I struggled and I struggled and I struggled… I hit the lowest possible point I’ve ever had in my life regarding myself.
And, with that intense and slow yet fast break down, I set out to have a breakthrough. And I had the most intense overwhelming and invaluable breakthrough I have ever known, let alone in my own life personally experienced.
While I was here, living in Japan, I developed particular connections and attachments to different things. Onigiri, konbini, summer festival sake, kimono, yukata, onsen, train cards, and, last but far from least, Fuji-San… Mount Fuji.
I remember learning a long time ago that Fuji-San was a walkable mountain, as was Kilimanjaro. It never once occurred to me that I might have the opportunity in my life to climb either of these mountains. It simply wasn’t in the frame of possibility for me, and so I never considered its being a possibility.
And yet, the week I was leaving to move to Japan, one of the people who had interviewed me and whom I had greatly enjoyed getting to know, commented, “You should be able to see Fuji-San.”
It was at that moment that I remembered that Fuji San was even in Japan. And I had had no idea that it was going to be anywhere near somewhere I would be. (I still am pretty rough on Japanese geography.)
My first few weeks living in Japan, one of the other people with my same job, whom I had met at orientation and befriended, had photos of her hike up Fuji-San with a Japanese friend of hers. I then talked to her about it, and she told me how miserable it was, trekking through the rain, the miserable cold hurting her fingers and toes and entire body, yet she was extremely glad that she had done it. In the photos, pure joy was visible in her whole being.
It was then that I remembered the walkable fact, and I realized I could do that.
Naturally, it terrified me. But I asked about it, anyway. I learned that the season for climbing was very limited, and the person I had asked and who had offered to hike with me, was not going to be available this time. So, unwilling to go on my own – which, even with today’s eyes, I see as a good idea – I would have to wait until the next year. 11 months before I could do it. I didn’t have shoes right now anyway. And I quickly discovered that Japan doesn’t exactly have shoes in my size. So, I made it a point to buy hiking shoes when I went home for a wedding in November. I bought them for Fuji-San.
I was delighted, and terrified. I hiked a few mountains from then on to summer, and I loved every bit of it. I never knew I was such an outdoorsy person. I mean, I’ve always liked being outdoors, riding my bike, climbing trees, going on a walk… Whatever. But not a hiker. It turns out that I love hiking.
When I finally hiked Fuji-San, it was one of the most miserable nights of my life, even worse than that horrible time I had to stay outside the Montpelier airport, and I needed to pee from the very beginning, but had to wait five hours. (That really sucked, by the way, and it was really cold out, and I was not dressed appropriately for it.)
And it was lovely. The next morning was even worse, and we were all clear that we were never doing that again. But we wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
Now as I walk along the banks here, I look out in the direction of Fuji-San. The clouds cover everything in the sky, as it is a somewhat overcast day, with low hanging clouds. Yet, I can feel Fuji-San. I know it is there, and I remember going up the hill regularly to look at it on clear days and nights.
It feels like a part of me lives with it.
Multiple times I visited it and took photos with it while in kimono. I went more than once to the lakes.
I want to go again, but it doesn’t seem to make sense this time.
Yet, I might still find a way to go, anyway.
I have a relationship with this mountain, this unbelievable and massive being who resides in Japan… And I wonder if any of it would’ve happened, if this connection ever would’ve developed, if that one person I respected regarding Japan and Japanese culture hadn’t said to me, “You should be able to see Fuji-San,” from my town.
Whatever the case, I am grateful for his comment, and I am grateful for everything that has developed in this beautiful relationship between me and the earth of Japan, which really is just a piece of this earth where we have the honor of living and where I feel blessed to be every single day, night, and moment of my life.