The next stop on our whirlwind tour of Japan is the Shizuoka prefecture. We're staying with one of my mom's old backpacking friends (back when she used to do this sort of thing), who recently came back to Japan after living in Brazil for 25 years. The bait for me to come along? Ken-chan supposedly has an incredible view of Mt. Fuji from his backyard. Well, I've heard my mom's exaggerations before, so I wasn't expecting much.
Our remarkably quick ride to Shin-Fuji station came to an end, and my mom told me to look out for the bald guy. That would be Ken. And so I look around past all the black suits and notice one bald guy, whom my mom waves down to go give a hug. The dude's a Buddhist monk.
All of a sudden, I was gripped with a bit of fear. While I'm all for new experiences, I began to imagine living a monastic existence for the next day or so, eating raw vegan food and waking up at the crack of dawn to light incense and chant while begging for money in tourist areas.
My fears were allayed when we walked up to Ken's car - one of those rally-inspired Isuzus with "Handling by Lotus" badges, a bumping sound system, and navigation. Ken himself was sporting a titanium wristwatch and Timberland shoes.
My other fear, however, came devastatingly true. Despite being right by the base, Mt. Fuji was a no-show. As with most of the year, Fuji-San was obscured by a thick layer of clouds, and despite the awesome weather around us, the big mountain herself was in hiding.
So what should be an amazing photo here is just alright - Mt. Fuji should be where the big bank of clouds is on the right. Meh.
As consolation, Ken took us to one of the 150 yakisoba shops in Fuji. The going joke is that there are more yakisoba shops in Fuji than there are people. Well, if this one is representative, then they all deserve to be in business. Slightly chewy noodles, a light and delicious sauce, a nice dusting of fish flakes adding dimension, and eating al fresco with what should be the most awesome backdrop in the world. Oh well, you can't have everything.
Ken told us that while yesterday was brilliant, today is awful for Fuji-viewing, and tomorrow's slated to be even worse. There goes my incentive for coming here. But still, I was fascinated to be hanging out with a monk, and hey, the noodles are great.
For further consolation, Ken drove us over to Motosu-Ko lake, just northwest of the mountain. If we couldn't see the mountain, at least we could hang out by a beautiful lake and appreciate the golden and scarlet hues of Japan's famous autumn foliage, right? Again, the clouds are where Mt. Fuji would be.
It was indeed, beautiful, but a short while later, a more beautiful surprise lay in store as well:
At the last minute, just before finishing our round of the lake and driving home, Fuji-San decided to show herself, if only briefly. I, of course, went apeshit on the photos, and Ken did as well, busting out his own digital SLR. I could get used to religious clerics like this. Besides, every globe-trotting rockstar needs some Eastern spiritual mentor, right?
It was back to the car for the long-ish ride to Ken's place in Shibakawa, and we went and parked in his rinky dink garage. In there, he had a bitchin' lightweight road bike and all sorts of cycling gear. Again, this is a monk!?
I guess so, because his house is a temple over 700 years old. The temple itself is beautiful, and the house attached is fairly modern. In the living quarters, Ken has crammed in a high-end stereo system - on which he shared with us a CD of Japanese music recorded in Brazil, in Portuguese - as well as a computer where I was able to fire off a couple of emails, albeit in a limited fashion. (Hence why I'm writing this offline, sitting on the floor of the temple.)
I was told if I want, I could take my camera out into the yard, and what I saw basically made the whole trip worthwhile.
Bam! That's it. Pack my bags and send me home now. I haven't even seen Tokyo yet and I can consider this trip complete. Done. In the books. Oshimai.