The Bumpy Road to Mount Fuji

Sunday, I had an off day.  You know when almost nothing goes right?  It was bad enough that it was no longer funny to even to me with my self-deprecating sense of humor.

Every trip, I get directions on Google maps and write it on my Japanese paper.  Google maps has a wonderful engine that tells me which train station platform so its almost fool-proof.  They said it would be 3 legs – Yokohama to Hachioji, Hachioji to Otsuki, Otsuki to Kawaguchiko –  2 hours and 56 minutes.  It was a late start but this was my last chance to get some pictures of autumn.

Leg 1 – Yokohama to Hachioji

I was so excited to do a future blog about the train, I really didn’t pay attention to much other than taking pictures.

Trains in Japan are so easy, even a blonde can use them

It wasn’t until I arrived at Hachioji Station that I noticed my Suica pass (train pass preloaded with $50) was gone.  Panic set in.  I took apart my purse several times.  Whoops, no cash again.  Do I go home and give up or try to make it?  I decided that since it was a JR train for the next leg, I’m inside the fence and will fix it when I get to Otsuki.

Leg 2 – Hachioji to Otsuki 

For the first time in 6 months of traveling, an on-board attendant asks for my ticket.  Great, now I seem like a thief.  I showed her my paper that said I lost my pass on the last leg and she informed me 500 yen for the express train and I could talk to the attendant about my pass when I got there.  I dig through the change and pay with a 500 yen piece.  She gives me a receipt and I hang on to it with dear life.

When I arrive at Otsuki, the station didn’t want to deal with a replacement Suica pass.  I tried to pay cash for the trip from Yokohama to Hachioji, or so I thought.  I mimed my way into getting change in the machine for a 1450 yen ticket.  I put the ticket in the entrance assuming it would eat it but instead it was validated for my return trip home.  Only I wanted to go into town and find the nearest 7Eleven.  When I walk away, they told me I had to fix the ticket with the attendant because they thought I was going back to Yokohama.

The 7Eleven was one block away.  God bless America ran through my head with an action item to write the CEO telling him he saves me every weekend.  I grabbed one of those amazing rice balls for lunch and a diet coke.

Thank you, Mr. DePinto, for having one of the best retail distributions EVER.

Leg 3 Otsuki to Kawaguchiko

No drama, just a slow, local train with hard wood floors and great views of a different Japan.

Rice patties enroute to Fuji-san


Pretty and NO WAY I’m going down this thing.

The scene was amazing and I thought, ok this was worth it but I was mad that I arrived at 2:30pm when the sun was blazing overhead.  It was a breezy, crisp fall day – great for a boat ride and some wonderful shots of Mount Fuji.  Inspired by a friend, I was determined to overcome fear of heights by taking the ropeway.

Hiking back down was definitely the way to go although my legs were getting tired from all of the downhill steps.

Most of the way down is full of blazing color

At the bottom of the hill and 2 Diet Cokes later, I encountered this.  It did not go well with the shaky legs.  It was the low point of the day, or so I thought.

Not nice at the bottom of a mountain.

I’m one of those people who gets anxious not being home around dinner on Sunday so  I thought it was good timing to head home at 4pm.

Kawaguchiko to Otsuki

I posted my hard-earned photo on FB, proud of my trials and not a minute later, a baby started crying and didn’t stop for the 45 minutes.  Spoke too soon.

Mountain, fall, boat ride = heaven

Otsuki to Hachioji

Glancing at my paper and the sign overhead,  it looked like the right train.  It was the right line but according to the attendant I was going in the wrong direction.  He told me to get off at the next stop and turn around.  I have no idea where I was but the next train was 50 minutes away.  I had missed the previous train by 4 minutes.  Luckily, the station carried Kirin so I had some beer and a snack.

At 7pm, I finally passed Otsuki going the right way.

It might be relevant to share with you, I was remote enough that the announcements were only in Japanese.

Just a few stops later, the train comes to a screeching halt.  The lovely Thai couple next to me start talking.  I ask her what’s going on and she tells me the train hit an animal and they need to stop to survey damage.  A while later, it starts moving.  I have no idea when but I tried to calm myself with mindless solitaire.

My pocket wi-fi battery was dead so I couldn’t double-check where I was but I saw the whole train empty.  NOT AGAIN.  So I showed this woman and her 2 kids my paper that said Hachioji.  She said I should go with them as they live in Yokohama too.

Somewhere to Yokohama

The kids were rammy and so was I.  They started to test their English – “where are you from?”  Ah, another God bless America ran through my mind as I pulled out my iPad to show them a photo from Breckenridge.  That was the beginning.

I ran through my photos of Nikko, Nagano and other places along with the food I’ve been cooking and voila – friends we were.  I pulled out the Penultimate and handed it to the girls and asked them to write things in Japanese for me.  All of my anxiety and bad mood melted as two giggling girls taught be about Picachu and Pokemon.  I’m pretty sure we were the only ones on the train having fun.

There were 2 train changes.  I would have been so lost.

We arrived in Yokohama around 10pm and I was once again grateful for the kindness and warmth of this wonderful Japanese family.  I would probably be stuck on a platform somewhere otherwise.

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3 Responses to The Bumpy Road to Mount Fuji

  1. I feel your pain on this. BIG TIME. I live in Nikko, and once you get outside of a few tourist spots nothing is in English. A train journey is always a big risk! You did wonderfully!

  2. I feel your pain! I live in Nikko, nothing is in English except for a few key tourist spots that don’t have much to do with my day to day life. You were a champ, I’m so glad you found a Kirin! 🙂

    • Colleen says:

      Thanks! My first 3 months was awful. I wanted to go to the beach and ended up in Ueno. I’m not sure why it took me months to get an English map but that was before my Google maps. Being flexible was the key. (And to be totally honest, I really get lost in the US so it is me).

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