For our last full day in Tokyo we decided it was time to see the legendary greatness that is known as Mt. Fuji. One of the most beautiful and scenic mountains in the world, arguably the most photographed, and just a two and half hour bus ride from Tokyo. We booked tickets on an early bus the night before and woke up excited to take a break from the city for a day. Just as we were getting ready, my Google phone rang. As this almost never happens, I answered and was astonished to hear Hayley, one of my best friends I met in New Zealand calling. We hadn’t spoken except over facebook since I left three years ago.
“Taylor, I have some news.”
“Are you getting married? I asked, excitedly having seen the announcement on facebook already.
“Well, yes, I am. But that’s not it. I waited to call you until I was sure. I thought it was a joke or something.” My mood dropped instantly to the low, strained tones of her voice. “Kirra died.”
The only word that could escape my lips was, “What?”
Kirra was our roommate when we lived in New Zealand. We shared a house and a van and the three of us were better friends than I had made in my entire year there. Kirra saved me when I was lonely in a town and tired of it. I was ready to leave and instead she came, and then Hayley right after. Kirra was a little firecracker, and Hayley a quirky hippy surf girl. They were both a lot younger than I, but it didn’t stop me from learning from them. They already seemed to know more about themselves at twenty than I did at twenty-six. They indelibly imprinted themselves on me during those last three months I had in that amazing country. The day I had to leave we all cried wondering when we would be together again. I was crying again right then.
“But I just saw her post on facebook two days ago. And we had just talked; we were trying to meet somewhere in Asia when we could finally get our timing right again…”
“There was a car crash. She was with Tessa. I know Tessa is OK but that’s all I know.”
I told Hayley I had to go and thank you for calling and I just needed to get off the phone. As soon as I hung up the tears overwhelmed me. Hudson had heard everything and being the considerate boyfriend he is, he asked if I still wanted to go to Mt. Fuji.
“Well sitting in this hotel room crying all day isn’t going to make anyone feel any better.” I knew this was true, though part of me wanted to crawl back beneath the covers and pretend it never happened. But we finished getting dressed and walked to the bus stop in a haze of disbelief.
All of Japan seemed to be covered in that same haze. We never even saw the Mt. Fuji everyone comes to see. The trees were barely visible from the road as we twisted higher through the mountain roads. I sat with my head pressed alternately against the cool window or Hudson’s warm shoulder, only being able to divert my attention in brief flashes from thoughts of my friend.
When we finally arrived at Station 5, the base for hikers to the summit we alighted the bus into the mass of crowds preparing for their ascent. As we looked out over the horizon and down to the lakes surrounding the base, we saw nothing: just a huge white mass of fog that rolled visibly around us enveloping every hill and crevasse it touched.
It might have cheered me up to see the sun shining across the valley, the lakes sparkling in its warm rays. It might have made me smile to bask in its heat as we sat overlooking the beautiful country below us. But as it was, the mountain shared my mood and there was nothing wrong with that. We climbed up through the fog, incapable of seeing even the groups ahead of us, until we made it to Station 6. While we had no intention of summiting the mountain, here we were told I was allowed to go no further because I was wearing Birkenstocks. It’s not like there was anything to see up there anyway. We spent about an hour watching the hikers pass by in their hilariously Asian head-to-toe hiking gear preparedness. I learned to laugh a bit and let the weight of Kirra leave me for enough time to enjoy the man I was with and the amazing place in which we were.
And as if the mountain knew I was ready, the fog thinned just enough for us to peek at the landscape below. The lake wasn’t glittering at all, but I didn’t need it to be.
We made our way back down to the lower station and perused the gift shops before catching an earlier bus back home. We may not have gotten to witness Mt. Fuji in all of it’s sunlit, snow-capped glory, but that foggy morning was the perfect respite from a busy city when the one thing I needed was to let myself be a little cloudy too.