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Saturday 7 December 2019
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Trini family climbs Mt Fuji in Japan

The Samaroo family at the Mt Fuji summit with TT and Japanese flags. From left to right: Gabriel Samaroo, their guide Jack Fukushima, Dave Samaroo and Sebastian Samaroo.
The Samaroo family at the Mt Fuji summit with TT and Japanese flags. From left to right: Gabriel Samaroo, their guide Jack Fukushima, Dave Samaroo and Sebastian Samaroo.

RACHAEL ESPINET reports on energy lawyer Dave Samaroo's account of his family's climb of Mt Fuji.

Trinidadian mountain climber Dave Samaroo recently took his family on a two-day climb to the summit of the highest and sacred mountain in Japan, Mt Fuji.

Mt Fuji is 12,390 feet which is four times bigger than TT's highest mountain, El Cerro Del Aripo.

Today, August 11, is a public holiday in Japan known as Mountain Day which celebrates all things to do with mountains.

"Mt Fuji is a gorgeous mountain, like an upside down cone shaped, snowcapped, and a dormant volcano," Dave told Sunday Newsday in an email correspondence from Japan.

The family members included Dave, an energy lawyer, his wife Judy Sammy-Samaroo, sons Sebastian Samaroo, 17, and Gabriel Samaroo, 14 and daughter Stephanie Samaroo, 11.

The route chosen was known as the Fujinomiya trail which was said to be the shortest, but to the shock of the family, the steepest.

"The climb was uphill uphill uphill at all times with zero flat areas. In fact, in most places almost vertical, to make things worse, or more fun depending who you talk to."

The Samaroo family as they begin their climb of Mt Fuji on the Fujinomiya trail. From left to right: Sebastian Samaroo, Judy Sammy-Samaroo, Gabriel Samaroo, Stephanie Samaroo and Dave Samaroo.

The family found itself drenched in rain, blinded by fog and facing near freezing temperatures. The family carried TT flags stuck into their back-packs which led to curiosity from other friendly Japanese climbers as to which flag was that. They were happy to answer and talk about the country with sign language, expressions and the help of their guide given the language barriers.

Unfortunately, at around 11,000 feet, altitude sickness floored Judy and Stephanie. Altitude sickness is characterised with nausea, headaches and racing heart and can be fatal due to the lack of oxygen at high altitudes.

The Samaroo family resting as they climb Mt Fuji. From left to right Stephanie Samaroo, Gabriel Samaroo, Judy Sammy-Samaroo, their guide Jack Fukushima and Sebastian Samaroo.

Judy and Stephanie were forced to wait in a hut while the rest of the family continued with headlights at 2.30 am to reach the summit just in time to see the sunrise. Japan is after all called land of the rising sun.

At the highest point in Mt Fuji, Dave, Sebastian and Gabriel proudly unveiled the TT flag to curious on-lookers and were joined in the celebration by their mountain guide Jack Fukushima who held the flag of Japan side by side.

Samaroo, who has climbed several mountains in Africa, UK, US, mainland Europe and now the Far East, was pleased to have done this one for the first time with his family and hope they will be inspired to join him for many more. For now, they are still recovering so are unwilling to give this commitment. In fact, he had to cautiously ask everyone after the climb if they still loved him.

Mt Fuji was just one part of a whirlwind and wonderful tour of Japan for the family. They also enjoyed the cultural experiences in Tokyo, Disney Sea, visited a diverse array of famous Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Kyoto including one covered in gold. The family even had a private meeting at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum with peace activist Keiko Ogura, a well-known hibakusha, which is the Japanese word for Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor.

The Samaroo boys near the summit of Mt Fuji. From left to right, Gabriel Samaroo, Sebastian Samaroo and Dave Samaroo.

"Ms Ogura gave a riveting but sobering account of her experiences when the A-bomb hit on August 6, 1945 and the tragedy that unfolded, not just on the day but for decades after as survivors were shunned by society and had potential spouses."

The meeting ended with an appeal to the children to thrive for peace. Now in her 80s, Ogura formed a special bond with Stephanie as she was almost Stephanie's age when the A-bomb hit Hiroshima.

"It was indeed another highlight of the trip and she asked that the family share the message of peace and the pains for war and bombs with TT."

Her experience and message the family will write more about in the future. Samaroo said the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima documents the pain and suffering in the aftermath of the atomic bomb and is a must to those concerned about world peace and the effects of war on the individual and communities.

After the climb, the family recovered at Lake Kawaguchiko at the foot of Mt Fuji in a traditional Japanese inn known as a ryokan with its characteristic sulphur hot springs called onsen in Japanese. The protocol is to soak in the healing waters in the nude.

"Mt Fuji was always towering in the background over the lake though still mysteriously covered in clouds and mist but sometimes the top would peep out revealing its stunning height. It felt unreal looking at this majestic beauty from afar and to think that for a few days Mt Fuji allowed them to stand on its icy robes and a few to ascend to its crown."

The family especially enjoyed the nearby what they described as "postcard perfect town Oshino Hakkai."

Samaroo described it as almost "hobbit like" with thatched roof houses, streams and many natural ponds teeming with beautiful Japanese koi carp in deep and blue water, kept crystal clear by nature.

"So Japan was Mt Fuji, but it was more than that. There were many lost in translation stories that will make us laugh for years to come. However, the politeness and service of the Japanese people was an example for all. As one guide said, Japanese culture is one that thrives to be perfect...The Japanese hospitality was executed perfectly."

The 2020 Olympics is to be held in Tokyo and Dave insists those who go are sure to be treated to some of the most helpful people on the planet.

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