- Posted August 28, 2014 by
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Photo essays: Your stories in pictures
The face of Fuji
- katie, CNN iReport producer
It was 16 minutes before arrival when I realized I have come to a wrong place. Station Fuji, a small industrial town, was nothing like a foothill village with the picturesque views where I was going to behold the sacred mountain. Small wonder – kaleidoscopic change of shrines and palaces, neon–lit streets and lavish cherry blossoms, smooth lines on entrance to express trains, hospitality of my local friends just overwhelmed me. I needed the time for reflection. Saint Fuji asks for reverie, perhaps, it won’t open its face until I come to terms with self.
According to the map, the town had a park and I could walk along the seashore during two hours I had before return. A rare car disturbed the blissful emptiness of a sleepy Sunday town, gates shut, doors locked, and shops with no lights. I melted down in a cosy comfort of a hiding place beyond anyone’s reach.
Abruptly, gusts of wind ruthlessly twisted the umbrella, in a few minutes completely ripping it apart. I felt warm rain gently brushing my skin, soaking through the clothes. ‘I hope this is not a typhoon!’, I thought, as the prospective of a pleasant walk faded away. Just then behind the curtain of the rain popped up a little hut with a smoking chimney, a man standing next to its door. It was beckoning me to enter, offering a shelter. As caution and fear kept me away, I caught a glimpse of people sitting at the tables in the warm yellow light behind the lace–curtained windows. ‘Is it a diner? Looks completely unfamiliar. I'm afraid to enter! Perhaps, there is another place around?...’ All I could see in front of me was rain. I realized that I preferred to stay alone in foully weather rather than risking entering an unknown place. I was shunning people. How often have I passed life opportunities under excuse that, may be, yet another one would come?
Before I knew it, I was turning back, and in a moment found myself in care of a quiet nodding lady. Leaving the debris of my torn umbrella at the door, she took me to a table. Relieved that no one was staring, I pointed to a picture in the illustrated menu, relaxing, looking around. Behind the counter covered with the flowerpots a cook moved swiftly, fluffy towel wrapped around his forehead preventing beads of sweat from rolling down his round face. Two girls behind him in the steamy kitchen were chopping veggies and cleaning plates. Smiling ladies in kimono moved among the tables bowing to customers. Right next to me an elderly couple was sitting silently, frowning in disagreement over their noodles. I trusted, it was safe.
I trusted when, having returned to the station, I’ve learned the trains had stopped due to the strong wind, and I am missing the Tokyo express. I trusted when a station worker got someone English–speaking on the phone, who could explain to me how to get to the junction. I trusted when we waited on the bus stop with no signs in English, hoping it is the right one, with a handful of the other passengers, with no sound, no movement, just soft rustle of the falling rain.
I've got to the station on time and in an hour was back to Tokyo. Easily navigating the labyrinth of streets to my hotel, I knew instinctively which turn to take. I had a feeling I’ve been here before. I felt accepted, felt myself at home on this Planet Earth. On the way back the rain almost stopped and through the tainted window I saw the silhouette of a big mountain. It could have been Mount Fuji.