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.
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.