Sunday, 1 March 2015

東京 | Tokyo (4) - Mt Fuji and Squeenix

The early night beforehand had been because of our planned activity for day 4: Visiting Mt Fuji. We got up bright and early (ish) to head down to Shinjuku Bus Terminal, where the internet had assured me we could hop onto a bus to the Fujisan area, no reservations needed.

Thankfully, while the bus terminal itself was a little hard to find, the internet delivered, and we managed to secure tickets and comfortably doze our way through the couple of hours it took to get there. Ann-Marie and I were given designated seats in the "Woman Only" section of the coach. Interesting.

We were so lucky with the weather, the sky was as clear and sunny as anything.
 After a few attempts at trying to focus on the time-wasters we'd brought with us (alas, for some reason no book or games console could hold my attention or consciousness for more than maybe 10 mins) I nodded awake, looked out the window and saw:

It was so big. Far bigger than I'd imagined it would be. It almost looked like the backdrop to a stage production. The curtains that a group of tourists had gone around closing earlier because of the sun were now being anxiously flung open lest they lose a chance to snap a few pics. Ta, loves.

It's almost comically large.

We finally arrived at Kawaguchiko Station, as I'd read the actual Mt Fuji stations are mostly closed during the winter for safety, so we didn't bother trying to head in that direction.

Following some signs, we ended up at Kawaguchiko Lake, which was really beautiful and seemed to me quite European in a sort of Swiss way. Not that I've ever been to Switzerland.

We had our lunch on one of these tables before heading up the road to a cablecar that would whizz us up to the top of Mt Kachikachi, a large mountain with great views of Fuji and the surrounding area.

I can't even find words to express my feelings about this thing.
Unfortunately, while we were eating and enjoying the view, clouds had started to appear from almost nowhere. I was worried it would start raining but it just turned out to be overcast, which is sad because I can tell the blue sky behind would have been incredible. But it was still an awesome experience, just being there and seeing this mountain that genuinely looks like the sort of cartoon mountain you draw as a child. We started referring to it as THE Mountain.

It's actually a dormant volcano, so as well as a bit of fear caused by the sheer scale of the thing, I started imagining slightly darker scenarios such as what would happen when it next erupts (which is very soon, according to scientists). All I can say is that Kachikachi would definitely be a great place to watch it from. I have no knowledge of eruptions except for what I've seen in Blockbusters and that traumatic Hollywood nonsense they'd show us in science class at the end of term. Maybe it wouldn't be all that spectacular.

I think the fact that the towns and villages around it just stop suddenly, giving it a wide berth all the way around, ends up making it look even bigger. It's weird.

To Mt Doom.

There's a load of trails all over Mt Kachikachi that looked like they'd be interesting to hike along and explore, but considering those clouds were still bringing the looming threat of rain, it was cold and wintery, and thus would get dark early, we decided against it lest we miss our last coach home.

Mandatory "I'm too tall" photo.
We bought snacks and trinkets in the little shop there, and I got excited about a vending machine that dispensed fresh hot rice and noodles. There's also a strange and rather morbid folk tale surrounding the mountain, about a tanuki and a rabbit that were basically hell-bent on torturing each other. To honour this, there are various plastic statues all over the viewing platforms of cutesy renditions of the two animals...mid-attack. Hm.

The name "kachikachi" comes from the Japanese onomatopoeia for the crackle of flames. I'll leave you to look up the story or guess at the reasoning for that name.

I was stopped at one point by a young woman who was excited about the trinkets on my backpack of a few of the girls from the anime K-On!!, to my delight I understood most of what she was saying and managed to reply a little bit. She said my bag was really cute and asked if it was really K-On. She told me she likes K-On too, and started naming the few I managed to find. We both love Mio the best. So that was a little bit wonderful.

Tom Nook will hunt you down.
Finally, we called it a day, went back down the mountain (whereupon I found I'd lost my return ticket for the cable car and had to buy a new one) and bought our bus tickets home. We had about 30 minutes to kill, so we went into the 'little shop', as you do at the end of every adventure, and perused all the interesting things they had to offer.

It was full of cool housewares and foods fresh and locally made in the Fuji area. Sadly, I was worried about luggage space so I didn't buy anything too big, and I was worried about bringing tea across (not sure why, I'm sure it's fine) otherwise I'd have bought some interesting-sounding loose black tea, grown in the fertile volcanic soil around the mountain.

Ann-Marie convinced me to buy a jar of sake with a plum inside it, both made and grown within about 15 miles of where I was stood. It turned out to be the best thing ever, so thanks for that.

I (Or A-M? Can't remember) also got this tea that came in an adorable bottle that made me wonder how legit it was. Also, calling your drink "The Pungency" isn't exactly the greatest marketing idea.
I took so long choosing that in the end we didn't have much time to wait before the bus arrived (but enough time for some students to use us in their English homework?) and we headed back to Shinjuku where we met up with our friend Kyary.

We also met up with our friend Tom, who'd spent the day hanging out with cats and getting his feet rubbed or something, and headed off to the Square Enix cafe which apparently wasn't too far away.

We stumbled across the Host Club district. Not just an anime daydream.
After walking quite a bit further than expected, we were in the right area, and now just had to find the cafe itself.

The giant glowing chocobo and cactuar were probably a big giveaway.
Into the big egg we go!
Inside were, as you'd expect from a cafe, an array of tables and chairs, and nice music playing on some speakers. What is less common in cafes, is the Square Enix merchandise shop that ran around the outer edges of the place, the video game demos playing on a TV, and the fact that the music was a soundtrack from Bravely Default and possibly also a few Final Fantasy games.

Oh, and the memorabilia museum at the back.

Once we'd had our fill, we sat down for some food. It's all quite nice, which I suppose you'd hope for, but there were also some themed things on the menu, such as cocktails named after various potions from the games, and cakes or sundaes vaguely themed on a popular character. There was also a Bravely Default special menu, to celebrate one of Squeenix's most recent games (and possibly its 1 year birthday?)

I'll say this. You definitely got your money's worth of alcohol. Phew!
There were a few customers in there that appeared to be regulars, or big fans that were sampling everything on the new menu. Again, it's nice that people of all ages and genders openly enjoy video games and animation and it's not just seen as something for kids or guys.

I also saw a 3DS or two, so again, it's nice that the DS isn't just a kid's toy here.

Confusingly, our desserts arrived first. Each of the sundaes had a little chocolate cast of a famous weapon stuck in at the top. Here's Nick showing off his choco Buster Sword, while I think I had Yuffie's star.

 All of the food that I had was really nice, and the atmosphere of the place was great. Definitely worth a visit at least once.

Finally, fed, exhausted and achey, we sped back home to full-on blackout sleep.

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