VISIONS OF FUJI: A Portrait of the Japanese People as Seen Through Mt. Fuji
June 9 - September 4, 2011
HIROSHI Sugimoto, Yokohama Photograhs Meiji 20s, 2007-08 ©Hiroshi Sugimoto/Courtesy of Gallery Koyanagi
Mt. Fuji is a unique mountain that has long attracted the reverence of the Japanese people. They look up at its graceful lines, sometimes as an object of religious veneration, at others, as a symbol of the nation. Although Mt. Fuji itself remains the immutable, different periods and changes in people’s sentiments have given rise to the creation of various diverse images.
The image of Mt. Fuji in poetry, literature and painting, etc. has undergone kaleidoscopic changes since ancient times, reflecting the mental landscape of Japanese who has assigned various ideologies and sentiments to this mountain.
This exhibition will present photographs and various printed media depicting Mt. Fuji to illustrate the way its image has been transformed to cater to the tastes of the times: ‘Fuji’ in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, ‘Fuji’ through the eyes of foreigners, ‘Fuji’ at world expositions, ‘Fuji’ during the WWII and ‘Fuji’ in contemporary art, etc.

William Heine, Odawara Bay, 1856
Several illustrations of Mt. Fuji are included in Commodore M. C. Perry’s ‘Narrative of the Expedition to the China Seas and Japan’ (1856). Both a photographer and an artist accompanied Perry’s fleet and were able to observe Mt. Fuji while moored at Uraga or Yokohama. Mt. Fuji had remained an object of religious veneration until this time when the foreign visitors looked at it through the eyes of modern science as a subject for survey.

TAMAMURA Kozaburo, Rickshaw, 1880s
What are known of today as ‘Yokohama Photographs’ are hand-tinted photographs that were produced mainly in Yokohama, which was the largest foreign trading port in Japan from the middle to the end of the nineteenth century. Visiting foreign photographers and the Japanese photographers who learned their trade from them, photographed Japanese customs and scenery, selling large numbers of these works to foreign tourists as souvenirs. Many of the backdrops for the photographs and the illustrations on album covers featured paintings of Mt. Fuji.

Photography was invented in Europe in the mid-nineteenth century and arrived in Japan just as the feudal period was drawing to an end. It can therefore be argued that the numerous photographs that have been taken of Mt. Fuji since the medium was first introduced, represent a mirror on modern Japan and a portrait of the Japanese people who lived through the various periods since then.
This exhibition is the first in a series, entitled, ‘Modern Japan as Seen from Mt. Fuji’, that will be held at the Izu Photo Museum, which is situated in vicinity of Mt. Fuji.
[Contributing Artists] (titles omitted)
F. Beato
R. Stillfread
KOISHI Kiyoshi
HAMAYA Hiroshi
ARAKI Nobuyoshi
‘The Japanese and the Fuji Syndrome’
Ryuichi Kaneko, photo Historian + Shino Kuraishi, critic + Masashi Kohara, researcher at the Izu Photo Museum
Sunday, June 19, 2011, 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
[Gallery Talks]
Izu Photo Museum provides gallery talks by the curator every Saturday at 2:15 pm. Tours are free with admission. Reservations are not necessary.

DOMON Ken, Anticommunist Fuji Climbing Team, 1938, Japan Camera Industry Institute Collection
In 1938, the Japan-Germany-Italy Friendship Association organized the ‘Anticommunist Federation Goodwill Fuji Climb’. Comprised mainly of students from the Axis countries, 60 students from 7 countries participated. This photograph was taken by the young DOMON Ken who had come to the forefront of photography for overseas propaganda at that time. This photograph presents an image in which internationalism and nationalism blend together in harmony.

Photographer Unknown, B29 and Mt Fuji, 1945
From 1944 the U.S. bombing of Japan increased in intensity. B29 bombers flew up from their bases in South-East Asia, using Mt. Fuji as a landmark before moving on to various target cities. The sight of American planes flying undisturbed over Mt. Fuji illustrates the fact that the U.S. had already achieved air superiority in Japan.

HAMAYA Hiroshi, Radiating Rock Patterns, Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka/Yamanashi Prefs, 1961
The photographs that HAMAYA Hiroshi took of Mt. Fuji in 1961 were composed with a cool eye and stood in strong contrast to the usual eulogies of nature. In the book containing this photograph, ‘Nihon Retto’ (Landscapes of Japan, 1964), he writes, ‘At some point / there should be a time / when people can gaze / at nature’.  Having lived through defeat in the war and the apathy that followed the failure of the people to block the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty of 1960, HAMAYA suggests that it was not the Japanese people but rather the landscapes of Japan that he had watched.

MORIYAMA Daido, Fuji, 1978

[Exhibition catalogue]
Visions of Fuji: An Incurable Malady of Modern Japan
Text by Masashi Kohara
Published by IZU PHOTO MUSEUM/NOHARA, 2011.
Hardcover, 244 pages, 340 plates, 24 x 20 cm, English/Japanese
ISBN: 978-4-904257-10-4