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Society Report 9/2/95

As a special gift for its gaijin guests of honor, a high ranking official in my company planned a weekend trip to the top of Mt. Fuji for anyone in the company wanting to go. My wife and I prepared carefully for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Before the trip, we trained physically, planned and prepared portable meals with nutrition and energy factors in mind, and anticipated emergency needs. During the trip, we played conservatively and did what we could to keep costs down. In our minds this kind of preparation was normal, considering the magnitude of the venture we were going to undertake.

However, we were in stark contrast with the Japanese accompanying us, for it seemed like they hadn't made any preparations at all. For example, each of them prepared for the rigorous physical challenge by purchasing cans of concentrated oxygen. During the climb we took frequent breaks, and each time my wife and I were amused as we watched them get their fixes. It was truly as if their oxygen was a narcotic and they were heavily dependent on it. We were also amazed to see so much cash flowing during the trip. Though they carried backpacks, we could not help wondering what it was they carried, because they purchased everything they ever needed along the way, including meals, both during our travels on road and during the climb. Yet even with that, their meals consisted mostly of o-nigiri (rice ball wrapped in seaweed) and beer. And halfway up the mountain, there were even people purchasing water!

My wife and I didn't know what to make of all this. I figured that it must be because our cultures have taught us different kinds of survival for outdoor recreation. In America, camping and hiking survival has always meant having the right foods, first aid supplies, maps, and knowing how to make bear bags. In Japan, however, it would seem that survival is the same in all activities: plain old cash.