“Our side of Fuji is better,” she tells me over a hot bowl of ramen.
There’s a gentlemanly debate between residents of Yamanashi and Shizuoka about which prefecture has the best view of Mt. Fuji. The border of the two rivals runs straight through of the iconic landmark, which recently became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
“From here you can only see her top half over the other mountains.”
I swipe a tissue from the counter. My nose is running from my favorite spicy miso. “That’s a good thing?”
She grins. “You wouldn’t understand. You’re not a woman. Mount Fuji has a hump near the bottom.” Our conversation was in Japanese, and she waited patiently for me to check “hump” on my iPhone’s Japanese-English dictionary. I nodded and she continued. “Yamanashi is polite enough to hide Mt. Fuji’s fat butt.”
When you live in Yamansahi, you grow used to seeing Mt. Fuji every day. It might be a source of inspiration to poets and painters, but in Yamanashi it’s just a fact of life.
And a limitless well of local pride.
“Did you see Mt. Fuji?” My students asked me on my first week in Japan.
“You can see it from Kofu station.”
For the next week I looked for Fuji but didn’t see anything except the bowl of mountains surrounding the city. Fuji was hidden behind a thick net of clouds.
“I still haven’t seen it,” I told them the next week.
“You can only see it when it’s not cloudy. It’s supposed to be clear tomorrow.”
When I checked again the next day, Mt. Fuji was lending its wabisabi (Japanese art aesthetics) to the vista over local Maizuru castle. Stunning.
“You can only see the top half.”
I think students were a bit peeved by me pointing out their side’s deficiency. “Not if you go to the Fujigoko area! You can see the whole thing. And our side has the five lakes of Mt. Fuji, so you can see its reflection. It’s like having two Mt. Fujis!”
So I go, and see the whole thing for the first time. It wide. The entire mountain is the size of a city. Climbing from the absolute bottom would take at least two days.
“You saw it?”
“I saw it.”
“I like Yamanashi’s side better. Our side’s symmetrical, you know.”
Do I now? “I don’t know.”
“Mt. Fuji has a second, smaller peak.”
Ah, the hump.
“You can only see it from the border of Yamanashi, but you can see the whole thing on the Shizuoka side. Our side is symmetrical.”
“I’m going to Shizuoka next week.”
“You’ll see,” they nod. “Our side is better.”
I’d heard about the second peak of Mt. Fuji from everyone, but in all the travel brochures you really can’t see it. (Maybe the pictures were taken in Yamanashi.) I still hadn’t quite believed the hump was there until seeing it near the border myself.
I didn’t think it was so bad. But then again I’m not from Yamanashi.
On our trip to Shizuoka, we headed to Gotemba Outlet Mall. It’s a popular–and expensive–outlet my more fashion-conscious students make yearly pilgrimages to. On the way there I see a strange car.
“What’s Hatsune Miku doing on that car?”
She shoots me a condescending eyebrow. “You actually know who that is?”
“Clearly you’re not an otaku.”
Two eyebrows. “What are you talking about?”
“Ita, is short for itai, pain. Sha means car. Itasha, painful car, because when you see it, it hurts your eyes.”
“And the person who drive it feels the pain of embarrassment.”
Awesome. “We’re getting behind it. I want a picture.”
We follow him, and I’m beside myself when he pulls into Gotemba. My first Itasha.
“We must park near him!” I declare.
We find an inconspicuous space two rows of away, but with a good view. Score. We watch him, my anticipation mounting.
“You know, I bet he doesn’t have a girlfriend,” she comments.
He gets out. He’s 100% grade A otaku.
But then the passenger doors opens, and a stunningly cute girl in a miniskirt steps out and smiles at him. Our jaws drop and we stare like stunned tuna at this otaku’s hot girlfriend.
“It,” she coughs, “has to be his sister.”
I wanted to race over and give him a pat on the back. “Let’s wait till they go. I want a better shot of the car.”
We shop. I think about buying one army-looking jacket, but decide I don’t want to be mistaken for military. Some have a bad rep in Japan. I mostly just follow her around, getting bored until I finally see the view of Mt. Fuji she had been telling me about the whole way there.
“Gotemba does have a great view of Mt. Fuji,” she admits.
“Better than Yamanashi’s?” I ask.
Well, now that I see it, I have to disagree. It looks a heck of a lot better than any of the views I’ve seen from Yamanashi.
She watches me look. “So, Yamanashi’s side is better, right?”
“I’m sorry, I think you meant to say ‘yes,’ didn’t you?”
“Of course, dear.”
“I’m glad you feel that way.”
That said, after seeing Miss Kisa‘s pictures from lake Kawaguchi–in Yamanashi–I’ve got to say these are the best views of Fuji I’ve seen. But until I see it with my own eyes, I’ve got side with the enemy, traitor I am.
Question of the Day: You’ve seen the pictures. Which side do you think is better?