My favorite experience while in Japan was that of climbing Mt. Fuji. Summer is the official climbing season for Mt. Fuji. The Kawaguchiko route (which I used) is 3.6 miles each way. You start at the “go-gome” or 5th station (crazier or more athletic people can start from the bottom if they choose) and climb to the 9th station at the top. It’s traditional to begin the climb at night and reach the top in time for sunrise. Some people start in the afternoon and sleep in one of the mountain huts along the way before finishing in time for sunrise, but I opted to climb the whole night through. I began my climb at about 8 PM:
All the little lights you can see in the top of the picture are people with flashlights. The Mt. Fuji trails are quite crowded during climbing season–once you get to the top there is actually a traffic jam of people trying to make the sunrise, and you can spend a long time waiting your turn to continue. Even though I went by myself I never felt alone–there were so many people around!
Another cool thing about climbing Mt. Fuji is the Fujisan (what the Japanese call Mt. Fuji) hiking stick. You buy a blank stick at the go-gome, and as you climb you can get brands for the stick at each of the stations (including one for reaching the top). I was very proud of completing my stick (and had a huge hassle getting it back to the US, as it was too big for my suitcase).
I finally reached the top at about 3:30 AM, just before sunrise. There was a Tori gate to signify the end of the hike:
I was so tired by the time I got to the top, it was all I could do to get the stamp for my stick, buy a bowl of instant ramen and camp out on a bench. I had mostly dozed off when the people around me started yelling because they could see this:
I quickly got myself together and took the pictures I’d come such a long way for:
This picture should give you a better idea of just how many people were there to see the sunrise:
The way down was also quite beautiful, though being on the mountain was definitely more intimidating when I could see where I was:
Still, I had a ton of fun and I am really glad I went. It was an incredible experience, hiking up the mountain with so many other people from all over Japan and the world. If you ever get the chance to do it yourself, I would definitely go for it!
Mt. Fuji from the 5th station starting point:
Starting college can be a big transition. You’re moving to a new place, starting a new school and classes, and faced with making new friends in an unfamiliar environment. And, of course, there’s that whole “becoming an adult” thing. But, you’re also leaving a lot behind. Every new beginning means that an old chapter must come to an end. Leaving behind our friends at home may seem difficult, especially if they’re going to be a long distance away from you during the school year. Something I made sure to do was to spend a lot of time with them during the summer after high school. Of course, going to college doesn’t mean you’ll never see your friends again, or that you will no longer be friends with them. Good friendships will last if you put effort into them. It may seem hard initially. Coming into Caltech, it’s a sharp adjustment and many are caught up in the excitement of Orientation, Rotation, and starting classes. It may be hard to remember to check your phone frequently and to make time for phone calls and such. Rest assured that if you have other friends going to college, they’re probably going to go through similar things you will. In this transition period, it can feel like you’re going to immediately lose touch with people that mean a lot to you.
Let’s face it: the US loves being just a little different from everyone else. The obvious example? Units of measurement. As an international student from Canada, even I have no clue what’s going on half the time when my friends talk to me and use these weird nonsensical units. And I’ve literally lived on the border between Canada and the States for all my life. After a year here, I’ve finally got a sense of how the two systems of measurement compare and how you can more easily get your bearings with these weird units.
After a year spent in “soft-lockdown” at home in Atlanta, and as Caltech students prepared to finally return to campus, I was aboard an eight hour flight towards Edinburgh, Scotland. Since my junior year plans were interrupted by the virus who shall not be named, I’m spending my first term of senior year studying abroad through the Caltech - Edinburgh University International Exchange program. I’ve only been here just over a week yet have been exposed to so many new people, perspectives, foods, and classes.
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!