OPERATION: DOWNFALL (The Invasion of Japan for Otaku Purposes [aka ODTIJOP])


Day 8: Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Prince Hotel in ShinagawaMehve and I woke up early-early on the 19th (6:30AM, aka stupid'o'clock) in order to get packed and check out of the hotel by 8AM. We watched some more insane Japanese morning television while I ate some more snacks to break my fast. I found that I was going to miss the cramped quarters of our first (and so far only) hotel in the country for some reason, but I was excited about the place we were going to be staying in that night: an official onsen hotel in the mountains! I kept picturing something straight out of Hanasaku Iroha and hoped I wasn't getting too worked up about it, and I tried to convince myself that we could have very well booked ourselves into the Japanese hot springs equivalent of the Bates' Motel for all we knew.

We packed up, checked out, and then waited in the hotel lobby to meet up with the rest of our group for the "Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour" that we signed up for that day. Like everything else that we'd found in Japan so far, the tour started on time and ran like clockwork; as in clockwork in the Clock King's meticulous and anal retentive hideout.

We were taken to the Sunrise Tour HQ again, helped the uniformed ground crew shove our giant suitcases into the limited storage space under the bus, boarded our Fuji-bound transport, and quickly got introduced to Fish-san, our glorious guide for the day.

Fish-san is one of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life, let alone in the Land of the Rising Sun. He's this small, undernourished, mop-haired, middle-aged man with a gentle voice who never stopped talking. Honestly, he would probably be able to beat my lovable and gabby niece in a "I can't stop saying words" contest. We learned more from Fish-san about Japan that day (and its seedy underbelly) than I had learned after watching anime, Japanese doramas, and kick-ass imported movies for the last 20+ years of my life. For example, Mehve and I learned that the twin-towered government building that we had been searching for the day before was actually the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku (the country's architecture firms are not very imaginative when it comes to naming shit). Dammit! We had been to Shinjuku, but only at night. Totally missed it.


Preach on, Fish-san man. Preach on. We need to know these things.


Fuji bus ride

It was a dreary day, but there was some pretty coo' scenery to see on the way to Fuji that morning.


Anyway, during our two-hour plus trip to the Fuji Mountain (I can't believe it was that far away... You could see it large on the horizon from the start of the journey, but it never seemed to get any closer) Fish-san told us many more things that we didn't know. For example: the Japanese government keeps trying to get Mt. Fuji declared a World Heritage Site, but the committee in charge won't let it happen due to the fact that the forests around the iconic mountain are COVERED in junk and garbage. See, paying to get rid of large trash (like broken refrigerators, tires, and yakuza-murdered bodies) is very expensive in Japan. So lots of people (read ASSHOLES) just drive their shit out to Fuji at night and drop it in the surrounding forests. The lands around the picturesque mountain are literally a giant garbage dump.

Fish-san emphasized that you should never go hiking around the Fuji area for other reasons as well. Apparently it's known as the "Forest of the Bodies" or some shit due to all the suicides that take place there. Imagine hiking with your family through a mile of woods filled with abandoned cars, old office furniture, and rusting construction equipment, only to come to a clearing with a giant, majestic tree in the center of it... with 4 or 5 dangling corpses swaying in the wind. Fish-san says that Fuji is cursed and haunted, and our souls are at risk even just going to the base camp site. We believed him.

Fish-san also told us that Japanese women used to be known as "yamato nadeshiko" (the name of a frilly pink carnation, and also a term that means the "personification of an idealized Japanese woman"), but lately he finds that their inner ugliness and pettiness has corrupted that term, and all that they're interested in now (besides finding rich, wimpy husbands who stay late at work every day and don't bother them) is the latest cell phone or the next cute thing to become popular. He said that the upcoming generation of women are only interested in fashion and themselves. Fish-san does not mince sentiments.

The first hour and a half of our bus-ride to Fuji was in partly cloudy weather, but the last half hour or so was in a mist so thick it would make Stephen King jizz in his trousers. We honestly and truly could not see more than 50 feet ahead of us in that bus, but the driver never slowed down for a second on those bendy and twisty mountain roads. I figured that he knew this route backwards and forwards after years of driving it (like Initial D!), but Mehve thought that he was just drunk or suicidal, or both, and he wanted to go out with a bang and 40-50 innocent souls.

We got to the fogged-in Fuji base camp with no deaths, visited the museum at the foot of the mountain (we could not see Fuji itself though... Hell, we couldn't see anything beyond the first row of trees surrounding the parking lot in that mist), and I started my collection of stamps from famous Japanese landmarks that day. It's actually kind of silly how they leave out paper and a giant stamp that you can make that pretty much just says "I was at Mt Fuji's basecamp. Bonzai!" I learned that they have these kinds of stamps at famous sites across the country, and I was going to make this "my thing" this trip. Well, along with eating every last kind of snack food I could find and taking every awesome picture of me in front of every supremely Japanese thing we came across.

Fuji is a mess

Oh Fuji... Such a messy room you have there. You've got to respect yourself first before anybody else will respect you.


Mt Fuji is beautiful… In the Spring

For a few minutes that morning, the skies opened up, the sun came out, Fuji got covered in snow, and the sakura all started blooming. It was an amazing thing to see!


Mt Fuji stamp!

Stamping is serious fucking business. Wasabi!


Fuji or DIE!

Back on the bus! Fuck yeah! Bus #22! At 11AM! With Crazy Drivah-guy and Fish-san! It's time to ROLL!


Fuji is a messOh, and it was freezing there at Fuji's base. We weren't that high in altitude yet, but the lack of sun and the fog made it chilly indeed that Autumn morning, and Mehve was dressed like Tommy Magnum during a summer in Hawaii that day. I chuckled to myself, but Mehve did not find my amusement amusing as he shivered like Bob Marley at the North Pole most of the morning.

The base camp was but a quick stop though, and soon enough we boarded the bus again and headed up to the 5th camp, located halfway up the mountain. The trip up became infinitely more interesting after a while when the bus made it to the other side of Fuji and the fog disapperated like magic. The view of the mountains and valleys below us that we could make out between the trees was absolutely breathtaking! LOTS of pictures were taken at that time, but still no real impressive views of the top half of the main magic mountain yet.

We got to the 5th camp and Mehve and I were blown away by the vista set in front of us. Not of the top of Mt. Fuji (which due to forced perspective did not look all that majestic or paradigmatic), but of everything far, far beneath us. The Fall tree colors, the shadows in the valleys, the clouds passing below. It was pretty fucking imposing and awe-inspiring, even knowing that the forest that we saw was hiding a metric ass-ton of garbage and dead bodies.

Fish-san let us all go our own ways for a while in order to take pictures and see the sites, but he warned us not to get lost in the fog that was just starting to return, and not to answer any woman wearing a surgical mask who may ask us if she's pretty. Apparently that woman is an evil spirit with her mouth slit from ear to ear and you can't escape her with any "yes" or "no" answer. "Just tell her she is average," Fish-san said. "Or ask her if YOU are pretty." He seemed very sincere about all this. God I love Fish-san!

Fish teaches us art

More history lessons by Fish-san followed. I learned something new that day. Did you know that? I didn't know that. Fish-san teaches us all valuable lessons.

Oh, and fucking look at that fog we were driving through! Sweet Jesus!


Mt Fuji 5th Camp!!

Savoring the beauty that is the 5th Camp... And Coca-Cola-inspired commercialism.


Mt Fuji 5th Camp!!

Where wolf? There wolf. There mountain.


Mt Fuji 5th Camp!!

I think that sign says "You are excellent explorer! You made it to Fuji! Bonzai! You are awesome! Do you want a stamp? Do you want soda from machine? Why you no want soda from machine! You are explorer, you must be thirsty! Drink soda from machine or we commit seppuku!" At least that's the gist of it.


Mt Fuji 5th Camp!!

Nothing to say here, this just looks fucking gorgeous. No Coke signs, no soft drink machines, no Hello Kitty... Just Japan looking great.


The Rossman dot com



Tokyo & Shinagawa

Ghibli Museum

Ghibli Museum

Tokyo Tour

Tokyo Tour

Tokyo Tour





Shinjuku & Ebisu

Diet, Shrine, & Fish Market

Shibuya & Akiba


Fuji & Hakone




Kyoto & Nara

Kyoto & Nara

Kyoto & Nara