Different Cultures are Fascinating

One of the best parts about living in Japan has been all of the amazing cultures that I have been able to experience during my time here.  The Japanese culture itself has been incredible to learn about, but that is just the start.

I have been able to work with people from Japan, England, Australia, New Zealand, and the Phillipines.  On top of that, I have gotten to visist Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Nepal, Indonesia, and Guam.  I realize Guam is part of the US, but it does have its quirks.

This is not an attampt at a humble brag as much as it is an idea of the many different cultures I have gotten to experience.  They all have different foods, languages, religions, historical sites, and the list goes on.  

If I’m being honest there is a decent chance I never would have visited Asia had I not actually lived here, and what a loss to my life that would have been.  It has not all been tulips and rose petals here, in fact it has been quite the opposite, but it has been an eye opening experience.  

Most of us Americans have no idea just how great we have it.  Even those living in poverty in the US have it better than billions of people in Southeast Asia.  Yet many of the people here are very pleasant and welcoming.  

We loud boisterous Americans could learn a lot from the humble demeanor of these cultures.  Many of them are very tied to family.  They all sacrifice so much to take care of each other and to just get through.

Every time I visit one of these developing nations, I am in shock at how far behind the rest of the world is.  They live such basic lives, and most have so little to live for.  But not only do many of them live, they thrive.   

Not usually financially, but in the areas of kindness and openness that they personify, there are few equals in the world, with maybe the exception of the Africans I met in Europe.  They are the kindest, most open minded individuals I have ever know.

There is so much we could learn from each other if we would simply try to understand the other side.  If you consistenyly do that, you will find a peace and joy that cannot be masked, which is why I am grateful for different cultures.

What are you grateful for?

Climbing Mt Fuji

I know I have already expressed gratitude for this majestic mountain of Japan, but it is a whole different type of gratitude to have summitted her.  As one might imagine, this is no small feat and was the reason I was so exhausted yesterday.

The Japanese say that a wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once, and only a foolish man does it twice.

I guess that makes me a foolish man.

I was able to climb Mt. Fuji last year but was unfortunate enough to have terrible weather at the top and really was not able to enjoy the experience.  I was still proud of myself for accomplishing the feat, but it left me with a desire to do it again.  So when the opportunity arose to go with some friends, I had to take it.
It was not looking promising in the days leading up to our climb with a typhoon coming through and rain forecast for the entire week.  With the way schedules aligned, yesterday was the only chance we had so we decided to just go for it.

When climbing Mt. Fuji almost everyone starts at the fifth station, which is around 7,000 feet in elevation.  As we started up the mountain we were essentially at the same level as the clouds, but they were also climbing the mountain.  

It is actually a pretty cool sight to see as the wind pushes the clouds up the mountain and you go from blue sky to overcast in a manner of minutes.
Fortunately, as we proceeded up the mountain, we were able to outpace the clouds and broke out into blue skies for most of the way up the mountain.  It was actually fascinating watching the clouds climb up after us wondering if we would make it to the top before they did.  Which we did.

The climb itself is only about 4.1 miles to the summit, but as it is also about 5,000 feet of vertical elevation, it is not a quick jaunt up the hill.  It took me just over six hours to reach the summit but I am glad we took a little bit of a slower pace because we got to enjoy the beauty of the mountain more, and we were not dying when we got to the top.

Beauty is an interesting word to describe the terrain you climb through because it is mostly volcanic rock everywhere with no vegetation or life of any kind once you get above about 8,000 feet.  And yet, it is truly beautiful.  

The sheer magnitude of its size, the dramatic pitch of the climb to the summit, and the feeling of comeplete remoteness of the mountain provide an incredibly peaceful feeling as you climb.
It is no wonder that this incredible mountain has such spiritual and religious meaning to the Japanese people.  

As I summitted the mountain for the second time, I was able to really take in the magnitude of the sight I have admired these last two years from down below.  With bluebird skies overhead, and only a light breeze.  I was able to walk to the edge and admire the crater of what is still an active volcano.

It is another one of those things that you truly must witness for yourself to fully appreciate it.  I was with great people witnessing a great sight, and there is not much else I could have done to better enjoy the day.

The one thing that would have made the day truly perfect would have been having my Queenie there with me.  She wasn’t able to climb the mountain while she was here due to a bum knee and then leaving before climbing season started, and it just breaks my heart because I know she would have loved it as much as I did.

As I sit here on the eve of my Japanniversary I can’t help but be grateful for the experiences this amazing country has given me.  I have met people that have changed my outlook on life, I have been to some of the most historically significant sites in the world, and I have witnessed some of the most beautiful and majestic sites one could ask for.

After climbing the mountain last year I was certainly left wanting, and having now witnessed her, in all of her glory, I better understand what I was missing.  Having now been witness to it, I feel fulfilled and enriched.

Life is full of incredible opportunities that change us in ways we don’t fully appreciate until later, and after waiting a full year to get the complete Fuji experience, I can honestly say with all my heart that I am grateful for climbing Mt. Fuji.

What are you thankful for?