Tuesday, July 26, 2011


On a recent time off from the Circus I climbed Mt. Fuji.

I shall never see the beginning of a Toho film again in the same way.

Or any of Hokusai's hundred views.

I shall always wave my finger at the nipple of those twin paraboli and say:

"See there? At the very top? Right there?

I've been there."

Satori is Manditori

Actually, the thing about climbing Mt. Fuji is that I pretty much hated it while I was doing it but now have nothing but great feelings about the whole experience.

There were times going up when I was just thinking in chunks of eight steps. Eight more steps. Okay. Eight more.

People were throwing up from exhaustion and altitude sickness to the left and right of me at points. If course this is Japan so they were throwing up in bags that they would then carry to the top of the mountain and back down with them. Some had mountain gear so painfully florescent it competed with the greenish pallor of their oxygen deprived faces. Many huffed from canisters as they squatted slack limbed in the volcanic gravel like taggers inhaling paint fumes in a New York City subway tunnel.

I just got competitive. Eight more steps. Just eight more steps and I'll pass that family of four up ahead.

Climbing down?


This is not a respectable descent.

This is falling.

With gravel in your boots.

This is dirt and lava dust and a barely controlled death slide.

I came up what is called the ancient pilgrims route.

The Subashiri Trail.

I went down the poop chute.

Mountain hut my mountain ass.

An exact replica of Mt. Fuji on Mt. Fuji.

The thing is, seconds, literally seconds after getting down, my legs alternating between spastic and rubbery, I wanted to do it again.

It usually takes a little longer for hardship to gleam in retrospect but with Fujisan it took mere seconds.


The next day, still cursing the ascent of every subway stair I made a pilgrimage myself to Tozen-ji temple in Shinagawa.

(This is not far from Sengakuji temple, where the 47 Ronin brought, as their final avenge as it says in the pamphlet, the head of Lord Kira Kozuke-no-Suke Yoshinaka to show to the grave of their beloved Lord Asano and then turned themselves in to the Shogun and received their orders to commit seppuku a year later, which they did, their 47 bodies nestled under the smoldering incense there to this day.)

Accidental Gauguin

I was at Tozen-ji for another reason.

For it was here in 1859 that the British Legation had their headquarters at what was deemed a suitable distance from the Imperial Palace.

Accidental Jasper Johns at Tozen-ji.

The British Commander, one Rutherford Alcock, decided to take the weekend off and climb to the summit of Mt. Fuji.

When the Japanese Royal Guard got news of this affront they attacked Tozen-ji and killed pretty much everybody.

One of the only survivors was Alcock himself, who hid in a bathtub!

The joke is on the leader of the Royal Guard, who, if he had climbed Fujisan himself, would have known that after climbing that grey lava monster the first place you want to be is in a nice. warm. bath.

I climbed your mountain. You know where I'll be.

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