The Fuji is Gone - Trip to Japan As a Game

The Fuji is Gone - Trip to Japan As a Game
The Fuji is Gone - Trip to Japan As a Game

It belongs to every ordinary trip to Japan: A view of the National Mountain Fuji. But sometimes the weather or the tour guide makes a dash through the bill.

The first glimpse of the mountain of the mountains was promised to us for the second morning. From the roof of a skyscraper, 238 meters high in the middle of Tokyo in the Roppongi district. The old steel TV tower, an Eiffel Tower plagiarism of 1958, we had right in front of the nose.

Even his huge successor, the Sky Tree in the northeast, opened in May, we were able to see well beyond the grey sea of houses. But from Fuji: nothing. Thunderstorm clouds hung over the city, the view was murky.

In the afternoon a second chance in an ornamental garden behind the Tsukiji fish market. The weather had calmed down. Sandy steps led to a hill, a wooden sign promised "view of Mount Fuji". We walked up the road. But above we saw only trees and other skyscrapers.

Many places promise a view of the Fuji

Our Travel manager Mrs. N., a Japanese woman with excellent knowledge of German, who she had acquired as a pupil in Hamburg, was not surprised: "I thought so!" Hundreds of places in Japan boasted a glimpse of Fuji, but the few kept the promise. It is the thought that counts comforted Mrs. N., not the brittle reality.

If you book an Eleven Day Safari tour "Japan to get to know", you want to see the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the old capital Nara, the Peace Park of Hiroshima, the fast Train Shinkansen and the geishas of Kyoto. At least a short detour to Fuji should not be missed, however.

Finally, the travel catalog already raved: "You will not be able to turn your gaze away from the majestic Fuji-san, and the elegance and grace of the mountain will be remembered for a long time." Japan without Fuji, that would be like China without a wall or Bavaria without the Alps.

Only twelve hours flew, already illiterate

First, however, we drove in the wrong direction, from Tokyo northward to Nikko, into a small town of the eighth century and tomb of the Japanese-famous Shogun Ieyasu. Mrs. N. Bridged the travel times on the bus with edifying lessons about culture and national language.

"Isn't it amazing?" she asked, giggling, "just flew twelve hours, and they're illiterate." No sign we could read, no menu unless it was illustrated. English, we realized, was rarely a help.

Mrs. N. Met our lack of speech by leaving us unattended for a moment. Self-initiative during the lunch break or when visiting countless temples and monasteries was undesirable. Removal of the group was considered potentially common hazard.

The cucumber always comes to the end

Unpunctuality as seditious. "Order and discipline," said Mrs. N. More than once, "we love Japanese to you Germans." It sounded almost menacing.

But maybe it was just a game that you, as a tourist, did not look through as much as the ritual of bowing or the right order of sushi-eating (the one with cucumber last, taught us a master chef at the Kannon Temple of Tokyo).

For seldom were we received unfriendly or dismissive. On the contrary, almost all the Japanese who we met tried to help with a smile. Be it in the search for the platform or a cup of coffee in the U.S. chains also represented on the Japanese highway motorway. From the outside, the Starbucks store looked harmless, just like any other in the world.

Usher at Starbucks

But inside, a foreign empire waited with exotic rules. There was the usher! Muffins were served with knife and fork (better than with chopsticks, joked a joker from our group). And a milk coffee to take away developed into an order process that no less than three employees knew how to bind.

Again, none of the young forces spoke more than two words of English. Also, the beverage menu was written exclusively in Japanese. We helped us to waver between euphoria and despair, with pointing, showing, nodding and smiling until all the questions were answered.

So we also learned that in the country Nippon: with approximate, improvisation even, they did not satisfy themselves in a fast-food chain. It seemed less a question of courtesy than the strict fulfillment of the assignment.

Tourists and locals at a distance

No, courtesy wasn't the problem. In the course of the journey, later in Kyoto, in a restaurant with six curtain-separated tables, we met a waiter who blatantly burst out of laughter when we were using the photos on the menu to set up a meal.

Was the plum liquor as an aperitif the wrong choice? Didn't the herb salad fit into the roast beef fillet? What exactly triggered his cheerfulness, the waiter could not convey us, he also spoke no English. Still laughing, he withdrew to fulfill our desires, as strange as they seemed to him.

And not everything was already strange and fascinating enough, so also the late summer heat wave helped to keep tourists and locals at a distance. We central Europeans trieften and dripped at 35 degrees in the shade like green tea ice cream in the sun.

A cross-section of Fuji makes the round in the bus

The Japanese admirers of the temples and shrines, on the other hand, did not tread a bead of sweat. They were hardened by hot thermal baths Even in summer, wore parasols and plastic compartments. The women covered their delicate arms with gloves up to the elbow.

On the fourth day we waved back to the southwest, towards Hakone National Park. Well, promised Mrs. N., we should finally get closer to the mountain. But again the heavens retreated. It began to drizzle and, as unlikely as it seemed at temperatures, fog clouds rose.

Mrs. N. was prepared. She had audio cassettes and film documentaries. A cross-section of the volcano, painted with crayons, also made her walk around the bus. When she didn't remember anything, she sang a Japanese children's song. "What did you understand?" she asked expectantly. "Fuji" suggested a good fellow traveler.

Ride on a shrill fantasy ship

In the afternoon we reached the Ashi lake. A crater lake at 730 meters altitude, not far from the mountain. Pedaloes in swan form rocked on the shore. But we took the three master "Wasa", which in spite of its Swedish name looked like a Caribbean pirate barge from a Disney movie. He adapted to the lush green mountain landscape like a junk on the Königssee.

Again, it seemed a game of demarcation and illusion: When tourists were already haunted by this dreamy primeval breccia, they could also be transported to a shrill fantasy ship. From the ship, appeased Mrs. N., you generally have a very good view of the Fuji.

The drizzle went in spraying rain over, then in fall rain. The Japanese on board pulled over transparent capes and looked like candies inlays cellophane. A fishing boat crossed our path, a second pirate ship emerged from the fog. But from Fuji, we saw: nothing. The hope sank.

Even seeing is better than hearing a hundred times

Mrs. N. but remained caught. It almost seemed as if it was not grieved that the national mountain remained hidden from us. So let it be. You can not always see Fuji. Yes, maybe next time. Remember, it's the thought that counts.

Afterwards, she wanted to tell us a little bit on the bus from the mountain. She did not seem to hear much of the Japanese proverb that once seen is better than a hundred times.

However, Mrs. N. did not want to wait for weather improvement. She pushed the pace. She wanted to reach the hotel before a Chinese tour group arrived. From experience, she knew what the Chinese were doing with the evening buffet if they had the first access. It sounded after a massacre. In any case, not order and discipline.

Inflexible like a Gallic village

We'll bow to an expressway. For a moment the sky tore up. "There!" cried a fellow traveler, while we whizzed across the street, "There is the mountain!" But a grove already blocked the view. Can we go back again? Mrs. N. remained inflexible like a Gallic village: "The Chinese, you know."

When we arrived at our accommodation, it was already dawning. Too late for a walk through the national park. Instead, we went to the hotel's thermal baths, equipped with cotton kimonos and leather slippers. In the hallways hung beautiful photos of the mountain.

After dinner, we sat in the lobby. The hotel was filling up. The Chinese came. For a long time, we chatted with a young man from Shanghai, who traveled with his father. He did not look like a buffet-Ravager, he spoke very good English.

To grasp

Exhausted from the bus ride and the hot bath, we went to sleep. The rain dribbled against the glass, in the bathroom, the Japanese high-tech toilet rushed. Dreams of Chinese pirates came on surging Königssee.

The next morning, the sun lugtens through the curtain. I pulled him up. Cloudless sky. And right in front of the hotel window, large, perfectly shaped and almost at your grasp, as if in fact everything was just a game: the Fuji.

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