Sunday, August 3, 2014

Asahi Shinbun marks Hyakumeizan's jubilee

Tensei Jingo (“Vox Populi, Vox Dei”) is a daily column that runs on the front page of the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s most popular and revered newspapers. On July 26, the column wrote about Nihon Hyakumeizan, which was published fifty years ago this summer. Here is the article in full:-

Fukada Kyuya (Asahi Shinbun
file photo)
Many Japanese people have probably heard of the book "Nihon Hyaku Meizan" (Japan's 100 famous mountains), even if they are not familiar with the name of its author, Kyuya Fukada (1903-1971). Published in the month of July exactly 50 years ago, the book has remained a perennial favorite of mountain lovers, not a few of whom have made it a lifelong project to climb all the 100 mountains selected by Fukada.

On July 20, the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book was celebrated in Fukada's native city of Kaga, Ishikawa Prefecture, with the unveiling of a commemorative monument.

Fukada is often dubbed "the man of letters of the mountain." Given his track record as a mountaineer, he was certainly not just a writer whose hobby was dabbling in mountain climbing. Even though he was born during the Meiji Era (1868-1912), he explored the Himalayas and called himself a "romantic pilgrim."

Fukada climbed every one of the 100 mountains he selected for his book, rating them by their history and his own standard of the mountain's "dignity" and "personality." In describing how he felt when he had to reject a mountain that fell slightly short of his "passing mark," he noted, "I felt the sort of agony a teacher would feel when he has to fail his beloved pupil."

Rereading the book, I was deeply impressed by his wealth of knowledge and perceptiveness. For instance, he describes iconic Mount Fuji as "one big simple entity that needs no cheap tricks" and adds, "Toddlers can draw Mount Fuji, but even the greatest artists struggle to capture its essence." His words hit the nail on the head

Out of curiosity, I counted the number of mountains I have scaled so far. The total is 51, the majority of which are "conquests" from my younger days. I was an avid mountaineer back then, and one mountain led to another. Unfortunately, I have since been reduced to only fantasizing about the refreshing mountain breeze while I bake in the city's brutal heat.

"There are 100 delights atop 100 mountains," Fukada once noted. He was probably referring to the 100 mountains he selected, but it can also be interpreted to mean that each mountain is delightful in its own way. The eagerly awaited summer holiday season is here. Challenging one of those famed peaks would be a great idea, but heading to any of the lesser known mountains could be just as nice. But one word of advice: Take every safety precaution if you want to have a delightful time.


Text and photo by courtesy of the Asahi Shimbun, July 26 edition. And many thanks to Taka for bringing the English version to my attention!

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