Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Distant views

Of famous mountains and, if they don't show up, a consolatory invitation to Tokyo's best tempura restaurant

What is a mountaineer to do when, for work or family reasons, he can't get to the mountains? Well, if he lives in Tokyo, he seeks some nearby high ground and gazes out at the distant ranges. This is exactly what Peter Skov did on New Year's Day. Taking his camera, the Tokyo-based mountain photographer got up before dawn and drove from his house in Konosu City, Saitama, to a nearby park. Then he waited for the sun to rise.

Fuji from Chiba by yoko.wannwannmaru
Fuji from Chiba, a photo by yoko.wannwannmaru on Flickr.
The first rays of 2013 revealed a stunning array of mountains, all of which Peter has captured with his trusty Sony/Minolta and posted on Tsubakuro's blog. Now this is quite a haul. Starting with Mt Fuji, a whole host of "famous mountains" stands on this horizon, together with quite a few not-so-famous ones. It's striking how many of these peaks are volcanoes (Fuji, Asama, Nasu, Nantai, Nikko Shirane, Akagi, Haruna) or have igneous origins (Tanzawa). Perhaps old Shiga Shigetaka got it right - the essence of Japan's landscape really is volcanic.

When it comes to the art of distant mountain-viewing, Peter Skov can look to a distinguished predecessor - none other, indeed, than the Hyakumeizan author, Fukada Kyūya himself. Take, for example, this excerpt from the Warusawa-dake chapter of Japan's most famous mountain book:

To look up at these remote mountains [in the Southern Alps] from the plain is always a joy. It was Kogure Ritarō who discovered that Warusawa can even be seen from distant Tōkyō. More than twenty years ago, he sent me a postcard with a telephoto picture of Warusawa taken from the top of the Mitsukoshi department store in Shinjuku, the crisp white mountain rising sheer over the foothills. That image has stayed with me, as if etched into my memory. And on how many fine winter days since have I climbed to the top of tall building or a hill in the outskirts in order to seek out that distant snowy peak.

The Mitsukoshi store is still there, I'm glad to say, but I wonder if Warusawa-dake can still be seen from its top storey. Perhaps somebody should go and take a look. But please note that Nihon Hyakumeizan was published in 1964, since when, weed-like, tall buildings have sprung up all over this part of the city. And that won't have improved the mountain panorama.

So you may get to the top of Mitsukoshi only to find that your view of distant Warusawa is blocked by the new metropolitan government building. If so, might I recommend that you cheer yourself up with a bowl of the finest tempura in Tokyo? This you'll find right behind Mitsukoshi, at the old-established Funabashi-ya restaurant. If there's a queue for seats - and there usually is - tell them the Hyakumeizan author sent you.


Ἀντισθένης said...

Is there an English translation of Fukada Kyūya's 'Hyakumeizan'? I'd take it on paper, or as an eBook. I have not found it be searching.

Project Hyakumeizan said...

Antisthenes: many thanks for your interest - the good news is that there certainly will be an English translation of Nihon Hyakumeizan. Indeed, the translation was finished long ago and I'm now trying to add the finishing touches to a 30-page introduction - you can see some bits and pieces of this being test-driven, as it were, on the blog. And a university press in the United States has agreed to publish the book. Exactly when is still an open question - but I will keep you posted on this blog when I know more. Watch this space....

Peter said...

I missed seeing this post though I think you alluded to it in one of our exchanges. Have you seen this site?


Views of the Minami Alps from various high places in Tokyo.

Project Hyakumeizan said...

Peter - many thanks for that link. Yes, of course: although Tokyo is now full of high buildings that block the view from ground level - by the same token, those same buildings provide some excellent vantage points for viewing the Southern Alps in all their glory.