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Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 77 – Mid-Air over Fuji [Fuji-san & Akihabara Glory]

No, I’ve not learned to fly.

I’m on an Air China flight bound for Hong Kong and have just experienced a Fuji fly-by on a clear day. Kind of a shame you can’t just loop around it and pop out the camera but I guess I’ll just have to content myself with having actually seen it.

It’s seemingly customary to say that you’re “sad to be leaving” somewhere as magnificent as Japan. I’m not, but that’s because I feel like I’ve spent just the right amount of time there – I’m happy that it’ll stay in my memory as a wonderful journey through a country I’ll never forget.

All the way through I’ve found it difficult to convey why the place is so special and that’s not about to change so you’ll just have to take my word for it or, better still, come see for yourself. Hopefully some of the photos both Fi and I have taken will convey some of the magic.

In my last entry I was en-route to Mount Fuji to spend a little quality time with her and see if she would grace us with a clear view. She’s a notoriously fickle minx who often prefers to shroud herself in mist and clouds rather than sit clear for all to see.

On our first evening we rushed to catch a sunset via a cable car ride and managed 10 minutes of time with her before we had to catch the last car back down. While clear, the position and light were unconvincing so I’m not sure any great photos were taken. That said, Fuji-san herself was a wonder to behold up close.

We had ourselves a particularly swanky hostel in Kawaguchiko called K’s house and despite having chosen a 9-bed mixed dorm to cut costs we ended up with the whole room to ourselves. We took advantage of the huge kitchen on the first night and rustled up a Spaghetti Bolognese that covered us for the next days’ lunch too. In truth it could probably have done us both for 4 meals but we’re frequently failing to take care of ourselves properly at the moment – a trend that needs to change if we ever intend to visit a beach.

We over slept the next day so having missed sunrise I chilled out and worked on the website while Fi went out for a walk. Later in the afternoon we rolled over to another of the five major lakes that surround Fuji to see if we could get a better sunset. Here she was feeling particularly shy and we barely got a glimpse before sundown.

The next morning we rose at crazy o’clock and made an hour’s walk in the dark to see a Fuji sunrise before our return to Tokyo. While a blue sky was absent Fuji was crystal clear and it was worth the effort and cold.

We returned to Tokyo and back to the same hostel [Khaosan Tokyo Samurai] where we’d left our larger bags. There we met Rob & Lori, a fantastic couple from Oz, and bumped back into Shaun who introduced us to his sister Christine. We decided to all roll out in search of Sushi. We failed to find the spot we were looking for but came across a noodle place that served somewhat weird Octopus balls. We returned to our tube stop, called in at the local hostel bar on the way back, and all in all had a lovely evening.

After a slow start that saw us miss the Emperor on his birthday we did a little time-lapse photography at Shibuya crossing after a sushi-train lunch. In the evening the hostel group held a Christmas party for guests over at another site so we sorted ourselves out and set out for that.

It proved a grand do, with a curry buffet [very traditional] and a whole host of people there to enjoy the revelry. Rob, Lori, Shaun and Christine all made their way across and we bumped into Yuko – a young Japanese girl in town for interviews [hope they went well!] who’d studied in Edinburgh. We also met Matt, a travel photographer and Tilly his roommate who both drinks and loves to rock like I do, and a magnificent Yorkshire lass [is there any other kind?] called Olly who’d have no doubt kicked my ass at Streetfighter had the opportunity presented itself.

A good time was had by all and the Christmas Eve hangover was surprisingly light. We had to transfer to another hostel the next day as space over Christmas was hard to come by. After a morning wander around the local markets we got a stupidly expensive taxi [double the advertised price] and settled in to the new pad. I managed to find Lost in Translation – one of my fave films and a very accurate portrayal of Japanese culture – save for the spectacular nature of the people that I’ve covered at length in my earlier ramblings.

Once we’d managed to get into our room we set out for Akihabara to attempt the seemingly impossible – win at Streetfighter against Japanese opposition. I had no expectation but I just wanted to satisfy my inner geek and enjoy the mega-arcades. We had a play in an incomprehensible photo booth that produced some interesting results. I then took my seat, dropped in the coin and started to warm up against the machine. I was doing quite well and making progress – finishing the game was on the cards – then came the familiar signal – “Here comes a new challenger!”. Fi had spotted the Japanese fella sizing up the challenge for a while and he’d evidently decided he was on for a win here.

Not so!

I took him out in two clear rounds in the first match – a feat I’d never thought possible. Still high on my own shock and revelry I was surprised to see him square up for a re-match and while he put in a better performance the glory of ending his come-back with a top-drawer special move was the icing on the cake. While I’ll undoubtedly be defeated evermore going forward on Christmas Eve 2011 I defeated Japanese opposition on their home turf. Twice. Yatta!