Woke early but could not motivate myself to get out of bed until 5:15 a.m. Many people photographing the mountain from the garden below my window. This morning Mt. Fuji had a cloud cap on the top, common on mountains like this. When I arrived at the garden, one extremely dictatorial Japanese photographer was holding forth on proper camera angle, at least that’s what I think he was doing as several other men with complex cameras were hovering around his tripod while he lectured. I took some shots from the same place as they were standing, then asked him to take a picture of me with my camera. He snorted derisively but complied.
Breakfast was a grand affair with vegetables, fish, eggs, toast, rolls, rice, soup and tea as the mountain became increasingly shrouded with clouds. We ate, paid our bill and left for the suicide woods.
The Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mt. Fuji is unfortunately know as a place of suicide and many depressed Japanese go there to end their lives. Tom had read an article about it in a recent travel section of the Sunday New York Times and had mentioned the article to Isao in an email. So, of course, although that forest was the last place Isao and Reiko (whose friend’s husband had ended his life there) wanted to go, they obliged Tom. The forest was a rather impenetrable tangle of low and high forest growing on an undulating floor of old lava flow covered now with dense moss and lichen. Not very inviting especially on a cloudy, rainy day like May 1.
Isao searched in vain for an entrance to the forest. We purchased drinks from a vending machine. Finally, we stopped at the Wind Cave site and found this was one of the central entrances for the forest. In fact, Haruka had seen the Wind Cave parking lot featured on a Japanese TV show about suicide victims, many of whom leave their cars in this very lot. When local notice that cars have been parked for three months, volunteers start searching for the bodies, usually hanging from trees. Great.
We went to see the cave which was deeper than just the lava tube that Tom expected and filled with ice formations. But we never explored the forest itself, although there were marked trails, as it started to rain in earnest.
After exploring the cave, we went to lunch at a beautiful cafe on the banks of one of the lakes. A beautiful spot. Isao drove me to peek at a Japanese Agway type store where I ogled the bean seeds and met a Japanese woman with great pants who instructed us to see her favorite shop in Tokyo.