Posted by: Megan | June 19, 2007

Would another wise Japanese proverb have spared two cyclists?


Mt Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain at 3776m, in my opinion has a lot to answer for – luring the adventuresome towards its beauty. There is even a Japanese Proverb about those who choose to hike the near perfectly shaped volcano: ‘You are wise to climb Mt Fuji, but a fool to do it twice.’ What about though ‘choosing’ not to climb Mt Fuji but to circumnavigate it by bicycle instead? And … have a Japanese Proverb about biking as well? Trust me, if I could have read something like: ‘You are a bloody fool to try and cycle around Mt Fuji in the first instance, but a bigger bloody fool to try it for the second time’ before I first set off on two wheels, let alone countless times thereafter, I doubt I’d have this cycling story to share. The one with a start to an almost end …of my existence …


Sunday, 24th of January 1999 gave promise to an excellent day’s riding ahead … a sharp clear blue sky allowing perfect visibility of Mt Fuji from the city of Kofu – where the ride began and I was living at the time. My cycling partner that day was a guy named Bill. While not a cyclist like me, a triathlete and ex US Military man all the same who had what I felt it took for the hard slog up and over the main road leading to Lake Kawaguchiko, the circumnavigation of the 4 other lakes all before a final hard slog up and over the main road leading back home!


Fuelled with a coffee from McDonalds (cringe cringe … it was early ok with little other choice available on the road at that time) we were off and no sooner than we put foot to peddle did the rain start. Seeming pretty tame we kept on going, journeying up the hills until all of a sudden ‘tame’ turned to ‘snow’! Snow fell and fell and fell until a fairy tale scene from a white Christmas story was created. Where was that missing proverb – a fatalistic warning? Moreover, what possessed us to carry on? The snow was coming so thick that both ourselves and our bikes were completely covered in snow, and at the point of being snowmen on bikes we felt we had gone too far to ‘give up’ and should at least make it to the first lake for all the effort so far!



Lake Kawaguchiko, at the base of Mt Fuji and one of the famous 5 lakes was eventually reached! The priceless looks we received from the locals as we arrived, in what Bill believed approximately 6 inches of snow, was a classic shot! McDonalds again came in very handy – a defrosting refuge with easy to mop floors as we slowly melted back to existence with the aid of hot chocolate after hot chocolate after hot chocolate!

megbill.jpg megsign.jpg md.jpg msnow.jpg


Leaving a wet trail behind in McDonalds, and feeling satisfied that our hot chocolate purchases well paid off the misuse of the establishment as a dry cleaners we set off for what became the long haul home – having to abandon the other 4 lakes! The thought of crying and pleading with the station master to allow our non-bagged up bikes on the train back to Kofu hardly seemed worth potentially freezing into gaijin (foreigner) statues for the town to laugh at in the process of being understood! Besides, the ride back we believed would simply make the day even more ‘impressive’! Impressive’ though came at a price. Bill suggested that a way to tackle riding back in the thick snow would be to lower our bike seats all the way down so our feet touched the ground and we could somewhat toboggan part way home. Displays then of duel talent biking and ice skating were in fine form! We were absolutely freezing …

I am not entirely sure at what point I called for the random door knock en-route home but I certainly chose a good home when greeted by a lovely old lady who spoke not a word of English. The pure sight of us spoke for itself, and in turn Bill and I were greeted with the best ‘random hospitality’ we could ever pray for! Warming Miso Soup with hearty pieces of tofu in it, gratefully slurped as we sat in front of her heater for as long as it took to warm back up with …these amazing ‘warmers’ enclosed in plastic bags attached to our hands and feet to seal in the heat! Cookies and cake and coffee as well …yes … we chose well for the ‘random’ door knock appeal I believe is what got us home – in the end!

Our ‘saving grace’ lady:


Thursday, 11th of February 1999 – not only the Emperor’s Wedding Anniversary but too the last day Bill ever rode with me, and one in which a proverb about biking clearly should have been written! Admittedly on the second ‘attempt’ to accomplish the same ride together weather warnings were as blatantly ignored as the forecast for rain comes snow! McDonalds, hot chocolates, bedazzling locals …again part of the ride that was, believe it or not … even worse than the first one!

Eventually, and finally at a later date I did end up completing the entire ride first attempted twice in snow field conditions. Surpassing Lake Kawaguchiko for any stop at McDonalds for clear conditions allowed the remaining 4 lakes to be circumnavigated … Lake Yamanaka, Lake Saiko, Lake Shoji and Lake Motosu before the final trudge back to Kofu for a well earnt sushi and sake indulgence!

NB: the lady we randomly ended up on her doorstep was re-visited at a later stage with photos and a gift of thanks!


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  1. good story. more brown couch posts please.

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