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Japanese couple climbs Mt. Fuji for 14th year
Publication Date : 04-07-2013
The famous mountain serves as their 'health barometer'
Hajime and Kayoko Murayama completed their annual ascent of Mt. Fuji on Monday, greeting the sunrise together on the peak to celebrate Hajime’s 78th birthday that coincided with the opening day for the season's climbing season, the first after the sacred mountain's World Cultural Heritage listing.
The couple, residents of Kodaira in western Tokyo, have climbed Mt. Fuji every year for the past 14 years as part of their efforts to stay active. “We’re grateful for Mt. Fuji for giving us a chance to stay healthy,” they said.
Kayoko, 71, and Hajime set off Sunday from the mountain’s Fifth Station on the Yoshidaguchi route in Yamanashi Prefecture. After climbing to the Eighth Station, they spent a night at the Gansomuro mountain hut.
Starting to walk the next morning at 2:30am in the darkness, the couple reached the peak at 4:35am, in time to see the sunrise. Gazing at the sunbeams peeking through gaps in the clouds, they exchanged smiles and talked with each other about how the sun this year did not seem to be as round as it did in the past.
The couple’s annual pilgrimage began on Hajime’s 65th birthday after he retired. Since then, Hajime’s exercise regimen has included three weekly sports club sessions, while Kayoko climbs Mt. Takao in Tokyo every month and works out on their home treadmill. “Mt. Fuji is our health barometer,” Hajime said.
They tackle Mt. Fuji with Kayoko setting a gentle pace and Hajime following behind. Hajime has summited every year and Kayoko makes it to the top about half the time. If she’s too tired, she rests in a hut while he climbs on, then they descend together.
Hajime said his most beautiful memory is the sunrise they witnessed together in 2004 from the Hon-Hachigome Fujisan Hotel at the “main” Eighth Station, which sits a bit higher than the current official Eighth Station. The sun was a perfect circle and the sky was ablaze in red and orange. Hajime keeps a picture of that scene as his cell phone standby screen.
They said the mountain seemed a bit more crowded this year due to the World Cultural Heritage designation. “But for us, Mt. Fuji’s attractiveness hasn’t changed even a bit from before the listing. We want to come again next year,” Hajime said.
After coming down from the mountain, the couple always stays the night at a hotel near Lake Kawaguchi to celebrate Hajime’s birthday.
Prayer for safety
A ceremony to mark the start of the mountain climbing season of Mt. Fuji has been held at Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha shrine--part of Mt. Fuji’s World Cultural Heritage assets.
Built in 806, the shrine in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, was recognized for its cultural value as the grand shrine of all Sengen Jinja shrines in the nation.
A Shinto event to pray for the safety of climbers began shortly after 9 a.m., followed by a ceremony to open the climbing season in which the mountain rescue squad of the Shizuoka prefectural police participated.