Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Love of mountains"

Excerpt from the short story "Love of mountains" by Uno Kōji

The Amasake tea house, Hakone, woodprint by Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)
And yet, what strange things mountains are. Why do they seem to possess such charm, not only for those born in villages surrounded by mountains, but even for people like myself, born and raised in a grimy city? And I believe that I am no exception, either.

Who do you think could walk, on a clear autumn or winter day, in the Yamanote district of Tokyo without stopping and gazing with astonishment at the Chichibu and Nikkō mountain ranges or at the purple slopes of Mount Fuji and Mount Hakone emerging suddenly between the houses and the flatlands? Few indeed!

According to a certain European scholar whom I read recently, this feeling stems from the intimacy with mountains that our primitive ancestors knew and passed down to us through the subconscious from generation to generation.Seen in this light, you see, I do not mislead you gentlemen when I say that the pleasure of looking at the snow-clad mountains across the lake from the western window in the inn was akin to the nostalgia of seeing one's home village again after a long absence.

Later, I was surprised to learn that those mountains, which seemed to be at least ten thousand feet high, were, next to Mount Fuji, the highest mountains I had ever seen.


“Love of mountains” (Yamagoi) by Uno Kōji, in Love of Mountains: two stories by Uno Kōji, translated by Elaine Gerbert, University of Hawaii Press, 1997.

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