Sunday, November 18, 2012

Karuizawa - 軽井沢

In truth, we spent a few days in Kita (north) Karuizawa, which was actually in Gunma prefecture, unlike the rest of the town, which lies in Nagano.

Either way, it was all beautiful and at even one hour from Omiya station on the Shinkansen, the air was so much crisper and Autumn had already passed us by. At ground level there were still some leaves of red, yellow and brown, but we didn't stay so low for long. 

Our coach transported us to the north of the town, up the mountainous roads that always curve so fast and so dangerously - yes, we were heading to where Autumn had passed; the leaves were on the ground and snow was in yonder distance on the big Mount Asama.

We had read reviews of people's thoughts on the hotels they had stayed in - many were complaints of there being nothing to do! This made us laugh as this was the very reason we were headed to the forests of the 'Zawa! 


If you look carefully, you can see the Ferris wheel from The Toy Kingdom (Omochiya Ookoku). This is a great place to bring kids and have a bit of adventure! You can even decorate your own mugs and keyrings and the like. A little memento of the occasion!

Typical souvenirs of the Shinshu region, where Nagano sits are the delicious apples! I would whole heartedly recommend you try them as they are crisper and fresher than any other!!

Other souvenirs can be enjoyed on the way home too! How practical is this lovely (sweet) bottle of wine!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mount Fuji! 富士山!The Descent!

This was not going to be pleasant! Although, at this point, I had Nooooooo idea just how bad it would be!!

Thankfully, because we were booked on such a wonderfully organised tour, we had breakfast waiting for us back at 8th station (where you were also allowed to leaved some of your luggage/equipment/ clothes etc if you really needed to).

Bonnie had told me it was a rocky road down ....It  really was. The path down was steep and seemingly endless. Even my special wooden stick couldn't really help my knee joints. It was a case of buckling up and going for it. Many people fell over too, such was the haste to get the pain over with, but the advice was to be careful and not to go so fast that you could cause injury.
I wasn't so camera friendly during this downward journey - I wasn't very friendly either! By the tie we reached the bottom, I had collected dirt and gravel all over! BUT - it was all worth it and at the bottom, we got our reward! 


With our guides!

Climbing Moutn Fuji was the most amazing experience ever! One of the best decisions was to join a well organised tour group. Not only did they look after us during the climb, but they took us to a lovely onsen restaurant with a great view of our own accomplishment!

Sunset back in Saitama!

Mount Fuji! 富士山!THE SUMMIT!!

We made it to the top!! We were more than excited - ahead of us was a walk around the crater, which we did hastily as the sun was due up shortly after we set off. It was a rush at first as we wondered around desperate to not miss the sunrise, but actually, our guide did us proud and found us the best spot and as the sun peeked through the horizon, we were perched, with our Union Jack, ready for it!

Tori gates at the top of the mountain!
At the risk of boring you with endless shots of the sun coming up, I have edited a lot of the pictures, but it seems that a fair few are still blog worthy! Truly amazing!

 Bonnie getting blown away by our own flag! This was the ultimate high point - not the flag, but the position. The weather station for Mount Fuji is up a smaller mound, that was actually quite steep. I admit I fell and could barely regain my grip, I think it took three people and a pole to help me up! But, we can truly say that we have climbed to the absolute highest point in Japan! and what a feeling!

We  then continued the walk around the rest of the crater. It was mid-July, but there was still snow at the top of the +3000m mountain.

 The shadow of the mountain - What a fantastic sight!

 There was even a shrine in the crater. The stones had been carried up by pilgrims (I think!). 
And, there's always food and drink - even at the summit of Mount Fuji, there are vending machines, hot ramen and plenty of souvenirs too!

And a stunning view of the lakes down below before we headed down towards them!