by Julia Raffel
The first time I saw Mt. Fuji was in the dark. We were driving, by bus, through a small town, noticing the glow of an amusement park that we all wished we could go to. When we passed the lit p roller coaster, the dark outline of the main attraction could be seen in the distance: Fuji-San. My heart hammered in my chest as my adrenaline began to rush through my lungs. I had never felt such a rush. It’s the type of thing you have to see up close and personal to even grasp how incredibly unworldly it seems even in the dark. I stood out of my seat, narrowing my eyes to glimpse a better view. The other Susquehanna students were standing as well, grabbing for their cameras to capture this sight. No one was able to get a good shot.
Our second encounter happened the following morning. Some Senshu students wandered down to the beach near our seminar house with me, Biuma and Nina, but the clouds hugged the tip of the mountain. Keeping the best parts of Fuji-San hidden from view, the clouds almost mocked our apprehension. There was only a moment of clear skies, the entirety of the mountain in plain sight for only a few of us, before the clouds rounded around to cover it from view once again. I stood there with Nina long after the others had gone back to the seminar house, staring up at the sight I kept longing to appear. But the clouds stayed still, moving to a clock not of this world. Their progress was nonexistent in my eyes and the clouds remained in their places for the remainder of that day.
Jeff, the American English professor at Senshu University, had told us that the best view was normally around 4 a.m. (or 2 p.m. Eastern time). Biuma and I had agreed to set our alarms just to capture one single good shot of the volcano. When we woke up at 4 a.m. we crept along our carpet to check outside our window without disturbing our Japanese roommate, Natsumi. There were no clouds, only clear skies. Biuma texted Katelynn, letting her know that we were on our way to her room. Katelynn had the best view of Fuji-San from her window, so the night before we had agreed to meet there. Katelynn was waiting at her door for us, and when we arrived the three of us carefully walked around her three sleeping roommates to finally see Fuji-San fully for the first time. The deep blue of the half-night, half-day sky made the volcano stand out with its deep grey coloring. The tip of the mountain was lightly brushed white and the moon stood above it, calmly observing just as we were. I could hardly even think to move at the sight of Fuji-San. It was the most beautiful thing to me, towering there alone in the stillness of the morning. I could have stood there for hours. The three of us took pictures together, whispering about how amazing it looked in that light.
We were only at the Seminar house for three days, but it felt like we had only been there for hours, even minutes. The clouds were relentlessly floating around Fuji-San’s head every day. When it was time to get on the bus to head back to the International Dorm at Senshu University, I didn’t want to leave. I waited on the beach with Nina for as long as I could, wanting Fuji-San to show me the full view again. It never did. But that feeling of my breath being taken away just at a single glance of its enormity sits with me when I think about it. Pictures can’t even capture the feeling it gives you when you see it for the first time in person. It just stands there, silently longing for someone or something to come along. And Fuji-San has a nasty habit of making you long for that view, that view it hides.