La Grange Scouts see ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ from atop Mount Fuji
Boy Scouts from the La Grange-based Des Plaines Valley Council celebrate with their Japanese counterparts at the top of Mount Fuji in July. | Photo by Kate Mulcahy
Updated: September 17, 2012 11:40AM
LA GRANGE — From the heights of Mount Fuji to the chilly recesses of an ice cave below the Sea of Trees forest, three west suburban teens just couldn’t decide what was the highlight of a recent two-week trip to Japan for a scouting program.
A two-day climb 12,395 feet to the summit of Mount Fuji thoroughly impressed Grant Younger, 16, of La Grange.
“The view at the top was well worth the trip,” said Younger, a junior at Lyons Township High School. “It was strange they were selling canned oxygen at some points.”
Younger was one of 14 members of a Venture crew, a youth development program affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America for young men and women 14 through 20 years old. The all-male American contingent were guests of Japanese Boy Scouts and Venture Crew members and their families.
“It was weird to have him introduce me to his Japanese mom,” said Younger’s mother, Kate Mulcahy, an adult adviser for the trip, who stayed with a different family. She and the Scouts marveled at their hosts’ warmth and hospitality.
Younger noted how all the climbers on Mount Fuji wore head lamps, and many started out at 1 a.m. to see the sun rise.
“In the dark, you could see a large snaking trail going up to the top,” he said.
Joshua Duffy, 18, of Darien, agreed with Younger, but said he also found the ice cave unforgettable below a forest at the base of the mountain.
“There was this large hole in the ground,” said Duffy, who will be a freshman at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz. “We didn’t need jackets at the top, but the temperature dropped sharply.”
The Scouts remembered how eerie it was in the frigid cave when all the hikers turned out their lamps and were silent in total darkness.
Samir Shah, 19, of Countryside, said he has vivid memories of building a raft with a team from the two scout groups by lashing wood and barrels and crossing Lake Yamanaka. Other highlights were touring Tokyo, the Honda race track and museum, an amusement park and even a formal tea ceremony.
“There also was the spiritual side of the trip, bonding with other scouts and communicating across language and cultural barriers,” said Shah, a sophomore at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He was elected to serve as president and lead the Venture crew.
One of the best moments for Mulcahy was appreciation shown by a Japanese scout she encouraged to climb Mount Fuji.
“Apparently zig-zag is the same in Japanese, and I encouraged him to do that for the climb. I kept telling him he could do it,” she said. “He told me I saved his life, and he wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise.”
The Americans said they were grateful their Japanese hosts spoke conversational English and imparted a few phrases in Japanese, for “go,” “water” and an all-encompassing expression of gratitude before meals, which translates simply, “I receive.”
The Scouts said their favorite phrase, used most often was, “Is it squid?” The response was either a puzzled look or a laugh, they said.
Other details of the trip are available on a blog Mulcahy created at www.japancrew2050.wordpress.com.