Mother & Man Made Rock Festivals

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July 20th 2007
Published: December 3rd 2007
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Where were our Korean friends when we got to Japan?!? We weren't lucky enough that they were able to come with us. We weren't lucky enough that everything was in Japanese, and none of us could speak more than a few words we'd learned in preparation. But what am I giving luck a hard time for? Luck is good 'cause it makes things easy. We got off that 3-hour ship from one country to the other, no problems, got through customs, no problems... The guard just dug deep enough through my suitcase to pull out the Japanese tea I had received as a gift. But I just smoked it with the customs guard and we parted with a merry AraH-GaHt-Oh!*
We gotta get somewhere, so we hopped on a bus. I was pretty sure what stop we should get off at. Too bad we didn't have any Yen to pay the bus driver to get off. I was feeling like a person feels just before they become a criminal. But there was a white guy on the bus, we traded Yen for Won and in the meantime, most likely I missed the audio box say in Japanese what was similar to the spot I thought we should get off at. Miles along the way, when we were about to run short of yen for the bus fare, we figured we had gone too far. We asked the bus driver about our spot and he started yelling what I translated through tone as "We passed that a long time ago! Get off here before you get any farther!"
So we did what he said. We paid him our only yen, hauled our luggage off the bus, and were kind of in the suburbs, not really close to anything but a local bank and a grocery store. I left my two partners, Bekah and Casey, the luggage while I went to find us some money. ATM: 10 machines. Tried every one. Neither would read my Visa card. Went to the teller, didn't speak English, but communicated that they were closing (at 3:00 pm?!) and it was too late to exchange money. The bank manager, knowing a few words in english, tried his best to tell us where our hostel was when I showed him the map. "Walk?" I asked. "No no no! Taxi! " I left the bank, looked around at the street sign names; still had no idea where we were. No money...lost in the suburbs with no where to Japan.

I was scared. I needed to think of a plan. I went back to the luggage where Casey and Bekah were. I didn't want to let them know that we were kind of stuck. So I grabbed something out of my suitcase, tried to say with cheer, "I'll be right back!" and I went back to the bank. The door was locked. The blind was closed. I knocked. A female worker came to the door. I cried a little. That usually gets their attention. The bank manager came, I tried to tell him we had no money.
He left.
Then he came back with his coat. He started walking really fast and motioned for me to follow. I skipped to catch up with him and tell him where Bekah and Casey were with our luggage. He saw where we were, then walked away really fast. He was a fast little man. He flagged down a taxi. The taxi shook his head and took off.
He flagged down another taxi. The taxi shook his head and took off. Finally, he pulled a taxi over for us. He loaded our luggage, I gave the fast banker 20 dollars, he gave the cab yen, we took off with an "ARAH-GAH-TOH!!!!!"
The cab man was really nice, stopped the fare when he knew we were out of money and took us right up to the door of our hostel.
Fun first day in Japan.

The next day we recieved our one-week rail pass. A special ticket on every fast, and fast fast train (*excluding the fast fast fast train).
Trains leave to go through the same destination every 30 minutes or so, which worked out pretty well for us.

We spent the whole day on the train, skipping half the country from Fukuoka to Fuji. We passed through Hiroshima, Osaka, and several other stations....

We got off at Fuji station and thanks to a couple of kind Japanese gentleman, we found the bus and rode on it to Kawaguchiko. During the ride, Casey was showing Bekah and I pictures and video he had on his camera.
"Oh and here's a video I took of a couple of Christian evangelists singing at a temple outside of our hostel in Seoul."
"I want to see!" My eyes did a double take, like the cartoon action... "Wait a sec....that looks almost like Dermot! And that looks almost like Dermot's guitar that the Dermot-look-a-like is playing! And that almost looks like Sarah singing next to the Dermot-look-a-like!"**
Now Asia is big. It has... a fair amount of people in it. What are the odds???

So after that 2-hour bus ride, we arrived in Kawaguchiko at 10:00pm and were quickly ushered onto another bus. We were exhausted from traveling all day, had all of our luggage, and the hostel was expecting us....but this was the last bus to Mt.Fuji.....It is best to climb it at night to see the sunrise at the top of the mountain.
So we arrived by bus to Kawaguchiko's 5th station and hit the trail. Even in the dark of midnight, it was gorgeous. It was really hard to believe where we were. On another planet? Mars, maybe? Except for our shoes hitting the dry rocks, we were completely enveloped in a star-filled sky. Without our flashlights, the only thing we could see were millions of bright stars and thousands of golden lights from the villages miles and miles below us. There was so much curiousity on that huge rock mountain, about the villages below and what they must be doing at this time of night. If only we could witness the daily routine of the Japanese families, the youngers, the elders, taking their tea, shuffling in their slippers, lying on their flats...but only being able to imagine made the experience so magical and we could only name lists of people that we wished could be there to witness it all.
It was a tough climb! About three o'clock in the morning, our exhausted group met the group that stayed overnight at a hut. Old men and women, climbing with canes, reminded us that we were young and could climb the mountain with ease....hahaha I really don't know how they did it. The climb became so steep that it seemed that if we tripped we would fall and fall and fall through air. But it was dark....maybe if we were lucky we would land on a star.
Before we could see any light, we could only see a dense, white fog. Feet ahead and above us, we heard the gasps of fellow climbers and then cheers. Seconds later, the sun rose at our level. It was queer that it would go from dark to light that fast. The light from the sun came at us in huge red and orange rays, lighting the sky a rich baby blue and coloring the fog a bright pink. The rock we had known was there by our grasp, suddenly glowed a bright red-orange. I look around and the faces of the climbers around me reflected the glow with awe. Not only was the sun the biggest and brightest I had ever seen it in my life, but the view was opened up before us and we realized how big we were and how little everything else was. And how high we were! And how our lives could end with one wrong step, yet we were invincible, we were gods!!!

Who would have thought that the climb down the mountain would be worse than the climb up the mountain! Our feet sank deep into dry rocks as we followed the trail back and forth, back and forth, back and forth..... I felt so sorry for Casey, he wore flip-flops! Bekah and I had to throw away our fake Pumas because of the flaps and holes!

It felt pretty good to shower and rest at our hostel in Tokyo. We dropped off a load of luggage and were off to a different kind of rock festival. My mother was worried about the earthquake and the leak of the nuclear power plant, but I advised her she need not worry; we were going to a mountainous area, miles away from the nuclear power plant, and we had no plans to go swimming. The Fuji Rock Festival was still on, and the trains were running again!

We took the complimentary shuttle to the golf/ski resort in Nariita. We pitched our tents on the flattest slope we could find. We were on our way to see several great shows.
The Cure
Blonde Redhead
Kings of Leon

We took baths at night at a bathhouse! I bathed naked with naked girls! It was awkward at first, for me, but the bath was really hot, so it was nice.

Beastie Boys
Lily Allen (She was great.)
Switches (They made me a huge fan.)

We finally got a hold of Peter, a friend who was living in Tokyo and whom I had hoped to meet at the concert, but Chinese cellphones don't work in Japan, especially in the mountains.... It was good to see him for the very short time we saw him. We saw at least one concert together.

The last day was one of the greatest days of my life. I saw The Shins, front row, playing acoustic. If only the Shins knew how much they influence they had on our entire trip. The day I was feeling tired of poppy Chinese music and wanted to hear the home comforts of Indie Rock and thought, "why don't I see what my favorite band, the Shins, are up to?"
The day I discovered they were playing at a festival called "Fuji Rock?" in Nariita, Japan, and the day that I cancelled the plans for the Trans-Siberian train and placed it with a new detour; Korea and Japan.
I shudder to think that we could have been on a train for more than 48 hours at a time, and have missed out on the great time we were able to have in Korea and Japan. Thank you Shins, thank you for being so great.
So at the end of the acoustic hour, I jumped in line for the autographs. The Japanese coordinator asked if I had a ticket. "Ticket?"
She explained that I had to have a ticket to get their autographs, tickets could only be given to those who purchased a CD, and the tickets, a limit of 50, have been sold out. Another American girl in the group was in the same situation as mine. I tried to explain to her that the ticket instructions were not explained in english AND the real fans of the Shins already had all of their music. She shrugged as if she couldn't do anything about it, but our pitiful looks caught the eyes of Marty, who waved us up to the stage. I was so nervous. Especially since I have a crush on Dave Hernandez, what is it about guys who play the guitar?
After stepping off the stage I was ushered over to a machine, which they cranked, out popped a ball, and "OH!", by their looks I could tell I won something. A beach bag, beach ball, and towel from MTV!!!

The next acoustic hour was Peter Bjorn and John. However, they didn't play, only talked a little in an interview and then signed autographs. The Japanese coordinator told me that they still had tickets left and she would let me on stage to get their autographs! :D

The day kept getting better, as we watched in concert the Shins, rushed over to see Peter Bjorn and John (Deerhoof played the female part in Young Folks.), saw Clap Your Hands Say Yeah....well wasn't a great experience as I was more worried about staying on my own two feet rather than enjoying the show. (smothered, hit, shoved, sweated on, people falling on my head....madness....) We conveniently ran into the Shins as they were getting beer, and I conveniently ran into Bjorn and had a chance to talk with him. Poor guy.

So I hadn't seen my family in more than 6 months, let alone my extended family in years. So I was to fly from Tokyo to Colorado, just in time for a family reunion in Grand Junction. I was enjoying the trip, but there was that part I was trying to ignore, that was really looking forward to seeing ALL of my family.
When it came time to part our hostel in Tokyo for our flights home, I took Bekah to the train station (She was reversing our route to fly home from China.) I was worried about her traveling alone and wanted to make sure she got on the right train. By the time I had dropped her off, I had a sinking feeling that I had miscalculated the time, forgetting to count in at least an hour for the train to the airport. In my panic, it was hard to sort out the Tokyo subway confusion and find my way back to the hostel to pick up Casey and go back to the Tokyo station. When we finally made it to the airport, it was the worst feeling I had ever felt when we missed our flight. Their were groups of people on standby to LA and San Francisco that had been in the airport for days and days.
Any other time, I think I would have been able to handle the situation differently. But I just couldn't be optimistic about it. Any other time it would have been great to have a little, or a lot, more time in a foreign place, but family is important. What a dread I felt that I had caused my family so much disappointment by not being there.
The $2000 ticket that had to be bought in order to get out of the airport, after 2-3 sleepless nights and an expected month of standby, was a quite a huge dread too.

*May be embellished.
**Dermot and Sarah are a couple of friends on the Dalian Gaelic football team that I played with in Dalian, China.

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