2008/12/09

CAVU!

Cavu? you ask. Not some coffee bean grown in Fiji, CAVU is an aviation weather acronym that stands for "ceiling and visibility unlimited" ie no clouds and air that is crystal clear.

Sunday morning we got on the 8 am express bus for Tokyo to go see, for the second time, the exhibit of paintings by Vermeer and other Dutch painters of Delft. The bus was full - we were the last two on - and K was seated directly behind me. Shortly after the bus got on the expressway, as I opened my book to begin reading, she tapped my shoulder and pointed for me to look out the window at something. The air was so clear (all together now: "how clear was it?")... so clear that from our vantage point on the expressway in Itako City, we could clearly see Mt. Fuji!

That's a distance of about 185 kilometers (115 miles)! The sight was stunning. After crossing the broad Tone River it disappeared behind intervening landscape, but several minutes later we saw it again through a valley. It is a valley I've seen many times from the bus, but which is never seen by people in cars because they can't see over the hedge in the center divider. The valley is like many along the route, rice fields between low cedar and bamboo covered hills, but a few kilometers away sits the three storied pagoda of Naritasan Shinshoji temple. So this trip, there was the valley and the pagoda I always enjoy seeing, but with Fuji-san just to it's left. Wow.

Sorry, I didn't have my camera. Besides, on the bus I was looking over a seat and through tinted glass. As we got closer to Tokyo the mountain loomed large and was breathtaking with two thirds of it's flanks covered in snow (more than in the picture below). I am sure the professional photographers were out in force that day and you will see their work in advertisements, travel brochures and calendars for years to come.

A Japan Rail advertising photo.

Coincidentally, in the previous week I had received an email from a reader who is a student in the USA, writing a paper about Japanese culture and Fuji-san, the phenomenon of people climbing it as a pilgrimage, and it's historical connection to the Shinto religion. Part of my reply (other than to refer the person to more knowledgeable folk) was that the mountain's majestic symmetry and dominance of the landscape actually helped to shape the Shinto religion and instill a reverence and indeed worship of the mountain and of nature in general.

Seeing Fuji-san from the bus on Sunday, my words came back to me and I experienced again, personally, that awe which has so deeply influenced and inspired Japanese culture. Not to say that Fuji-san is rarely visible. Not at all. But living as far from it as we do, for us it is a rare treat.

"Boy on Mt. Fuji" by Hokusai Katsushika. As I write, I am looking at a copy of this painting, which hangs above my desk.

13 comments:

Hypatia said...

Part of my reply .... was that the mountain's majestic symmetry and dominance of the landscape actually helped to shape the Shinto religion and instill a reverence and indeed worship of the mountain and of nature in general

I heartily agree w/that sentiment!

Specifically, I believe that geography and/or place has a very important effect upon religious practices as the connection to the natural world is primary in worship/veneration in non-Xian religions. The differing flora and fauna, annual weather cycles, and human needs associated with those ecological factors, combined with local geographic features (e.g. mountains, oceans, lakes, streams, open fields, forests), provide a particular environment in which humans instinctively create meaningful rituals for a specific region.

Sorry so long winded...I'm sure the sight must have been amazing and inspiring!

Don Snabulus said...

I remember seeing Mt. Fuji when my flight was in a holding pattern over Narita. Even though we are spoiled in the Pacific Northwest with several stratovolcanoes, there was something remarkable about Mt. Fuji. Perhaps it is the beautiful conical shape. Mt. Saint Helens looked like that before it was decapitated by the eruption on May 18, 1980. Maybe seeing Fuji was a reminder of that older time.

185km? CAVU indeed.

Olivia said...

That is truly beautiful. I was telling someone only today that I have never seen a mountain in real life. But I have just remembered that I've seen Vesuvius from Pompeii and from the drive along the Amalfi coast, and from the hotel across the bay where we stayed! Silly me for forgetting that, it was monumental and I couldn't keep my eyes off it.

Pandabonium said...

Hypatia - yes, we are a part of nature which embraces and supports us, and our place in it is defined by those surroundings. No apology fpr length necessary, your comment is spot on.

Don - I too have seen the volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest, as well as those in Hawaii. Fuji-san is among them as being special features of our planet.

I remeasured the distance on the map several times. I was amazed that we could see that far on the surface of the earth.

Olivia - you have succeeded in making me envious. I've never seen Vesuvius. Yes, I would imaging that would make a lasting impression!

The Moody Minstrel said...

It's always nice on those rare occasions (almost always in late autumn or winter) when the weather decides to behave itself and let people see Fuji-san. So much of the time it is obscured in clouds, even at point blank range.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Olivia
Never seen a mountain (other than Vesuvius, which definitely qualifies)?

M'lady, get thee West!

Children of Fiji said...

Love the images. The are stunning!

Pandabonium said...

Moody - I would have loved to have seen it from Ashinoko that day.

Children of Fiji - thanks. When I get my links reorganized I'll make sure your blog is among them.

Reena said...

That picture is so amazing, almost unreal :)

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

From Fiji to Fuji. Yes, that mountain is majestic and I like the woodcut very much. I think Japanese woodcuts have influenced my drawings a bit - that cut off look, cropping in computer speak.
I come from a flat land though the town was called Swan Hill though we never knew where the bump was!
w.

Pandabonium said...

Reena - Mt. Fuji is quite a sight. How are you? Lisa is 4 now, yes? How time flies.

Wendy - Hokusai is known for his Mt. Fuji prints, but this one is actually a painting, so has more subtle shades to it. Anyway, it conveys a sense of serenity whenever I look at it.

Swan Hill. Ha. That reminds me of "Puu Nene" on Maui, which means "goose hill". Same deal - where's the hill? :)

nzm said...

Stunning day.

We had a wonderful meteorologist in NZ - an American called Augie Auer.

He always would call them (clear days like these) "blue dome days".

I like that description!

Pandabonium said...

NZM - that's a cool term - blue dome days. Auer had some goofy ideas about climate change, but I like this term.