Playing in the Shadow of a Volcano

Posted on November 11, 2015 I Written By

Crash Uncle is father to three amazing kids, a C-130 Navigator in the USAF, and Crash Dad's favorite brother.

It's amazing how cold it can get just a few thousand feet up.

It’s amazing how cold it can get just a few thousand feet up.

Tell me that this headline doesn’t sound like fun.  I know my kids were super excited to be around a volcano.

In all reality it seems like every mountain in the Pacific region is a volcano, or at least used to be, so we are almost always in the shadow of one volcano or another.  In this case though it was a very well known volcano known as Mt. Fuji.  At 12,388 feet it is the tallest mountain in Japan.  While it has not erupted since 1707, it is still an active volcano which many experts say is due for an eruption.

Being the daring adventurers that we are we decided to take a chance and go for a visit.

On our way to the mountain we stopped and visited a pretty awesome waterfall that is fed by the waters flowing off of Mt. Fuji.  It only required a short little hike for our family, and was stunningly beautiful.  Shiraito Falls has been a natural monument since 1936 and is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.  It is just amazing to me how many natural wonders there are in this country.

The falls included about ten or so smaller waterfalls like the ones behind the family.

The falls included about ten or so smaller waterfalls like the ones behind the family.

After stopping at the waterfall we headed up the mountain to the fifth station on Mt. Fuji.  I guess I should explain what that means.  Mt. Fuji is divided into ten different stations starting at the base of the mountain and ending at the top.  These stations provide a number of different services like toilets, food, and even sleeping facilities for those wanting to take a more leisurely pace up the mountain.  You can drive all the way up to the fifth station (about 7500 feet) to start your hike, which is what most people do.  Unfortunately, climbing season is over so our journey to the summit will wait until next year, but it was still a great adventure.

I wasn’t so sure how great of a trip it would be as we reached the base as the sky was completely filled with clouds.  As we drove the approximately 22km up the mountain (yes you read that right 22km) we actually drove through two different cloud layers which was quite the experience for the wife and kids who had never done that before.  It is something we do all the time in the plane, but it generally happens pretty fast, so driving it was quite cool.

The view from above is almost always better than the view from below.

The view from above is almost always better than the view from below.

As we neared the fifth station I was afraid that we would be right in the middle of the cloud layer, but as luck would have it the whole thing opened up above us and Mt. Fuji stuck out in all of its glory.  We pulled into parking and got our first up close look at this amazing volcano.  On a clear day we can see Mt. Fuji from our house, but you really have to get up close to understand its majesty.  Equally stunning was the view out across the valley.

As I mentioned, we drove through two different cloud layers as we drove up, so there was very little to see in the valley, but that is what was so amazing about it.  The clouds themselves were simply beautiful.  After a few minutes I realized they I could see mountains peaking out above the clouds across the valley as well.  Those peaks were all above 10,000 feet and could not be held down by even the thickest of clouds.

There is something powerful about the shadow of a mountain.

There is something powerful about the shadow of a mountain.

There are a number of little shops at the fifth station which are very similar to what we have seen pretty much everywhere we go here.  Behind these shops is the Komitake Shrine which is a beautiful little structure and the site of the Kaizansai festival that is held yearly to celebrate the opening of the Mt. Fuji climbing season.

As we were standing on a platform near the shrine and looking out over the cloud deck I realized that we were literally standing in the shadow of the volcano and it was amazing.  I don’t think the picture here really does it justice, but it was incredible.  We have all stood in the shadow of a mountain before but I have never seen the shadow so distinctly as it laid itself out over the clouds.

Fuji SunsetI am super excited to climb to the summit next year, and this visit only made me more excited.  I really hope that my kids will be able to join me at some point as well.