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3 Lessons from Mount Fuji
Jan 1, 2018

Every nation has something to be proud of. Japan has Mount Fuji, a mountain that proudly stands at 3,776 meters. Although less high than other iconic peaks around the world, it is still a challenge to climb.

Life lessons are learnt every day by those climbing. But the lessons learnt from the peak of an active stratovolcano, which last erupted some 300 years ago and is overdue to erupt anytime, makes these lessons more valuable. I understand the Japanese proverb now and decide to be the wise man:
“He who climbs Mount Fuji once is a wise man; he who climbs it twice is a fool.”

Like any other mountain, the climb was grueling. And the difficult part about this was there was no nature to admire or reflect upon. The mountain is barren and exposed to wind from all directions, all the way to the peak. It is open to visitors only two months a year, and was therefore packed with trekkers. Going on a weekend, during the school holidays and peak season, makes it the most crowded mountain I have ever climbed.

The first life lesson I learnt was: Carry only what you need

Each trekker had to carry his own load. Other mountains give you the luxury of getting an extra guide to carry your belongings up to the peak. On Mount Fuji, you carry everything yourself, including the rubbish that you end up with. There is no place to throw garbage at the top, so you have to bring everything back down with you. We were warned that the weather at the summit was going to be freezing. So all the thermals clothing and jackets were necessary. Energy bars, water, head torch and my gloves all went in my backpack. As the climb got steeper, I realized I had packed in excess. Things I thought I would not be able to do without, but which made my climb more challenging and my back more sore unnecessarily.

Life lesson one

The life lesson from here is that life is a journey. We need to keep it simple and only take along with us what we need. Extra baggage only makes it backbreaking. Don’t get attached to the material possessions, you think you can’t do without them, but you can. Don’t get attached to anything, people, thoughts and wealth. Your climb up to the summit and journey in life will seem a lot smoother and lighter.

Lesson two: Break mental barriers

Our climb was planned a few weeks after Ramadan, so I wasn’t at my fittest. Fitness at my age was questioned and eyebrows were raised when I mentioned my upcoming challenge and asked, “Are you sure you will manage?” Thyroid sucked up my energy. And to top it all, as I prepared to travel I got a bad cold with a sore throat.

The life lesson is that you have to break your own mental barriers and replace the negativity with positivity. Colds heal. Thyroid can be taken care of. Age is nothing but a number. And anyway, what’s the worst that can happen? You won’t make it? At least you tried, and failures can strengthen you. So stop making excuses and do what you have to do! Enjoy God’s creations.

Lesson three: Appreciate God’s creation

Mount Fuji is very barren and it’s not a walk in the park. So when you tell someone you want to admire God’s creation, they can ask you, “Why don’t you go somewhere prettier?”

The life lesson here is that you find beauty in everything you see. One of the reason why the mountain gets flocked, with around 200,000 climbers a year, is so they can catch a glimpse of the sunrise. It is known as the goraiko or Buddha’s halo, and it is truly spectacular! So sometimes you have to struggle and you may see no benefit in your hard work, but the true beauty will come with one of the sunrises. So keep walking in life. Don’t give up. Soon you will be rewarded with something so amazing that you never imagined!

Japan, you taught me so much in such little time. Arigattu Gozaimashita.