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I Climbed Mount Fuji: An Expedition into a Multifaceted Cultural Journey

The gold and scarlet hues of the sky peeked over the horizon as I was standing on the summit of Mt. Fuji. It was 4:22 in the morning, and the frigid air pierced through my thick layers of hiking gear. The night prior, I had slept on a hardwood floor in a small station up the mountain so I could begin my hike early before dawn to catch the sunrise. I was exhausted.

As I headed inside the shrine atop the summit, I found the Summit Seekers, the scrappy name that our hiking group deemed ourselves as when we met. Our team all had differing motivations for hiking as we consisted of a diverse group: our Ukrainian guide, an elderly Japanese couple, a mother and son from Oregon, and a climber from Iceland.

Our guide was on his 150th+ climb of the mountain and recounted how he turned towards hiking to escape the chaos of war in his home country. Comparatively, the Japanese couple practiced Shinto and had pursued summiting the mountain to pray at the sacred shrines on Mt. Fuji’s peak. I, on the other hand, had taken on Mt. Fuji to challenge myself physically in an unfamiliar, foreign country. Regardless of the varying incentives we had for hiking, we all shared a common link – we did it because we loved it.

Being a part of our small group of hikers can be described as a transient community, but it felt like anything but that. The brief experience we shared taught me the power of shared passion in forming connections and the beauty in belonging to a community of diversity, even in the most challenging of environments.

Climbing Mount Fuji is not merely a physical challenge; it's an incredible journey into diverse cultures and traditions. As you make your way up this iconic mountain, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for the spiritual significance, artistic inspiration, and cultural richness that permeate the land of Japan. With an open heart and a willingness to learn and respect local customs, your expedition to Mount Fuji will undoubtedly be a memorable cultural experience that enriches your understanding of the world.

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