04.05.2012 § 2 Comments
Journey to Japan
This spring’s trip to Japan reminds me of my first trip to Italy in 1992. I called it “The Grand Tour”– a term referring to the tradition of 18 century European artists who could not consider their art educations complete until they had make a trip to Italy. I prepared for this trip to Japan for over a year and a half, and never have I put so much time into preparing for a journey to a foreign country. I am not sure if being able to ask for directions on the street or in a busy subway paid off for all of the time I put into studying the language, but I certainly was happy that I could be free and independent.
I had seen pictures of Fuji Mountain many times, but when I saw it in person, I finally understood why the mountain is celebrated so much. Out of the three times I saw the mountain, the scene from Tokyo was the most impressive–not only because it was the first time I saw it, but also because the mountain was visible through a hustling and bustling metropolitan city. One would not expect to see a white capped mountain right above a skyline of high-rises. So close is the mountain that it is as if it is hung over the cityscape like a huge moon setting on the buildings and covering half of the sky. Arial and fairylike, the Fuji Mountain appeared all of a sudden in front of me when the tour bus crossed a bridge toward Tokyo on a sunny cool spring morning. “Fuji San,” I exclaimed at my first sight of it, the way the Japanese would called it. Elegant and ephemeral like a dream, it disappeared behind the forest of buildings after a glimpse.
The third time I saw it was on the bullet train, the “Shin Kan Sen” from Osaka to Tokyo. After taking a series of photos, the senior couple sitting next to me finally struck up a conversation with me. They probably figured out that I was not a native when they saw me pulled out my Japanese-English dictionary and starting to click the camera button like crazy when I saw Fuji Mountain. After an initial exchange of identities, including country of origin, marital status, number of children and age (Yes, it is the old custom of Asia to check out all of these on first acquaintance, and I happily answered without taking offense for I am so very used to this custom.), I complimented them on how beautiful the mountain is. The old couple was very happy to know that foreigners also appreciate their country’s symbol, and they offered to share their hard boiled eggs with me. The eggs tasted extremely flavorful in Japan.
I was told that Fuji Mountain is mysterious and not easily seen. She will not unveil her face even with the slightest haze in the air. I feel a special connection to the mountain for showing me her face three times within my short stay in Japan.