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“We made it to the top of Mt Fuji!” – Staff member’s diary

As part of a recreation project for children in Fukushima, Peace Boat planned a mountain climbing trip to Mt Fuji from July 21-23, 2012. This post is based on the diary of Takeda Nobuhiro, a Peace Boat Disaster Volunteer Center Staff member himself from Koriyama, Fukushima.

The event, “Tohoku High School Students Climbing Mt Fuji for their region’s recovery!” was sponsored by the NPO Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan (HAT-J), inspired by the NPO’s Director and well-known mountain climber, herself from Fukushima, Ms Tabei Junko.

The project initially set out to gather 40 students to climb Mt Fuji together, but in the end had the participation of 89 high school students!

60 of these high school students were from the Tohoku area, mostly from Fukushima Prefecture, while the remaining 29 students were from the Mt Fuji region in Yamanashi Prefecture. Together they made ten teams to climb together, so that they could get to know one another and also climb together with an experienced Mt Fuji climber as leader, and another assistant. The programme took place for 3 days from July 21-23, and Takeda Nobuhiro participated as the Assistant Leader of Group 4. Below is his diary!

July 21 (Sat) Arrived at accommodation at the base of Mt Fuji

We had an orientation in the gymnasium and Ms Tabei and a representative of the HAT-J Tohoku support project, Mr Kanzaki, gave us a welcome speech. After we borrowed the mountaineering equipment, we had a meeting in our teams.

The next day we had to leave at 3 a.m! So we decided to eat dinner and go to bed really early. The rule was that each person would serve their own dinner, but the students were very helpful and ended up doing it for everybody.

Was it like a school trip for the students? They seemed to make friends quickly.

July 22nd (Sun)  The day of climbing Mt Fuji

In the dark before the sun rose, we went through the flow of the day and the important points to remember. After that we took a bus to the 5th station.  We had onigiri (rice balls) for breakfast and arrived at the 5th station at 5 a.m. It was getting lighter outside by this time. The high school students from Yamanashi joined the group at this point, which completed our group!

Once everybody was together, a representative of the students made the pledge, on behalf of all students, to safely climb to the top.

Finally! It is time to start climbing.

It was foggy when we got to the 5th station and visibility was low. No sooner did we start walking, than the heat started to hit us. There was no need to rush, and so we steadily made our strides forward at our leader’s pace.

When we approached the 6th station, it started to rain. The temperature was less than 10 degrees. If we decided to take even a short break, we quickly got really cold.

The sky looked as if heavier rain was coming. We had our rain gear ready and continued our journey. Because of the long distance from the 7th to the 8th station and the continuous rain, some of the students got tired.

However they are still young! They seemed to have some energy left!

It was also far from the 8th station to the 9th station. From the 7th station the road started to get rough with craggy rocks and it got worse from this point. Towards the end everybody seemed to get really tired, and people didn’t say very much. The bad weather also drained our energy and made us all tired really  quickly but there was only a little bit more to go!

And finally we got to the top!

We took a group photo in front of the monument. It was still raining, but everyone was smiling with joy at our achievement. We arrived at the top around 12 o’clock. We started from the fifth station at 5:30 a.m., and walked 6 and a half hours. We were very happy.

We were all soaking wet from the rain. No wonder some of the students were worn out.

Everybody did a great job!
We, the 4th group, decided not to walk around the crater and started to walk back down after a 30-minute break. It took us only 3 hours to get back to the 5th station and we headed straight to a hot spring to clean up and relax.

We heard that all the other high school student participants made it to the top, regardless of the bad weather. Great!  It was all thanks to your support and their hard work!

After climbing and taking a bath, we had dinner at the Fuji Yoshida High School. When we turned on the television, NHK news was reporting on us climbing Mt. Fuji! At the exchange session, we were given a poem from a chorus group and had Yoshida udon (noodles), a local specialty for dinner. Surrounded by delicious food and friends who together scaled Japan’s highest mountain, everyone was really comfortable with each other. After a great evening, it was time for bed! It had been a fun night with newly-made friends, which made us forget all about the fatigue from the day.

July 23 (Mon) Sightseeing around Oshino Hakkai

We had breakfast at 7:00 am and headed home after sightseeing in Oshino Hakkai.

People bought souvenirs and talked with friends, feeling a little sad about saying good-bye.
Some of the high school students had met their friends for the first time in a long time because they had had to evacuate their houses.  Moreover, they made a lot of new friends. Friends will always help you deal with any hardships that may be too tough for a person to bear alone.

Making precious friends and completing the Mt Fuji climb helped to give the students more confidence in themselves. It was a productive and fruitful three days. This project was made possible thanks to the hard work of many staff members and volunteers. Thank you all very much!

The “mountain” project was successfully finished thanks to everybody’s cooperation.
Next will be the “Ocean” project.
A group of high school students from Fukushima have just left Japan to participate in Peace Boata’s “Fukushima x Venezuela X Los Angeles Music Exchange Program.” We cannot wait to see them growing even more through this project!