Come to think of it, it’s the equinox day!

YUGA KURITA Mount Fuji Taikanzan Dawn_DSC7785
Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR

According to the weather report, it is going to be fine and Fuji will probably be visible. I hate shooting in a crowded place in weekends. It is a Tuesday. I’ll probably enjoy shooting Fuji without being bothered by anyone.

I somehow wanted to go to Taikanzan, a popular vantage point to admire Fuji in Hakone. This place was haunted by legendary Japanese painter Taikan Yokoyama as he loved drawing Mt. Fuji from here. This mountain was originally called Daikanzan but was changed into Taikanzan in memory of the great painter after he died. That’s the story written in guidebooks. I’ve never found any authentic sources to prove the story though.

I arrived at Mt. Taikanzan at a little past 4 o’clock in the morning. Taikanzan is located in Kanagawa prefecture and I need to go through Shizuoka prefecture to get there. But it takes only 90 minutes. My town (Fujiyoshida) is located in the southern region of Yamanashi prefecture. It takes much longer to go to the northern part of Yamanashi prefecture than to go to Hakone. It was nearly new moon. The sky was dark and stars were bright. I set my tripod on an overhead walkway, and then, waited for Fuji to show up. Fuji gradually became visible. It was rather misty and couldn’t get a clear view. But the sky was nicely coloured.

Yuga Kurita Sunrise Taikanzan Hakone_DSC7781
Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR

After shooting Fuji with my Nikons, I reclined the driver’s seat of my car to take a nap. But it was rather noisy. There were many cars and motorcycle in the parking lot. Taikanazan must be so popular that there are so many people on a weekday. When the risen sun directly lit the door mirror of my car, I gave up sleeping there, and determine to check out shooting locations in the area.

I headed to Jikkoku Toge (mountain pass). A Japanese famous novelist, Osamu Dazai had a rather critical attitude towards Mount Fuji but he said the view of Mt. Fuji from Jikkoku Toge was exceptionally good.

Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR

Apparently I need to take a cable car to view Fuji from the top. But I thought it would be quite easy to go up the stairways if they were installed and the cable car wouldn’t be necessary at all. I reluctantly paid 430 yen to get in the cable car. A female officer in charge of the ticket gate was quite arrogant and annoying. She made me even more reluctant to use it.

Yuga Kurita Mount Fuji Jukkoku Touge_DSC7854
Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR

The air wasn’t clear and Fuji was barely visible. But I could see that it was a great vantage point on right days.

Look at the above photo. You see huge fields of grass in the foot of Fuji. This place is called East Fuji Manoeuvre Area and is occupied by the Self Defence Force. There is another huge manoeuvre area in the northern Fuji area. The SDF occupies a great part of Fuji just for training soldiers. I know they are necessary to protect the nation. But do they really need to train soldiers in this area by occupying a great part of Mt. Fuji? If the lands were used to attract tourists, the economy would be much better. As a result, the SDF may also increase their budget and have greater force because the tax revenue would increase. Mt. Fuji is the greatest attraction in Japan. Why do they need to train soldiers by exclusively occupying such great places? They can train soldiers in places away from world heritages.

The SDF also burns off the fields to maintain the areas. Those fields of silver grass are supposed to be natural ones. But I suspect that they will soon return to forests if they don’t burn off the fields periodically.  It is quite disappointing if those huge fields are maintained just for training soldiers. Mt. Fuji looks much better if those (supposedly) artificial fields are replaced with natural forests. If those fields are artificially kept, they’re causing a great damage to the national interest. I want to see Mount Fuji as it is in its natural state without artificial lights from Fujiten Snow Resort and Subaru Line and artificially created fields of silver grass.

If my point is correct and those fields are artificially created, ICOMOS  (an organisation that checks credibility of world heritage sites on behalf of Unesco) should also point it out. So I might be wrong. My opinion isn’t based on scientific research. It is based on my feelings that I feel while shooting Fuji from various places.

map jikkoku pass©2014 Google, ZENRIN

The view from the Jikkoku pass was great indeed.  But the cable car is rather useless for photographers since the first cable car runs after the sunrise and it ends before the sunset.  I checked out a map to find an alternative route to get there.  I noticed there is a path leading towards the south from the observatory.  I figured out that probably I can park my car at at the cemeteries  located at the south and walk to the observatory by foot.

The yellow road indicates the Izu Skyline Toll Road but I turned left before passing through the toll gate and didn’t have to pay any.

There were so many people at the cemeteries. I was surprised and impressed by the fact that people in the area are so faithful that there were so many people although it was a Tuesday. I walked up the trail from there. After 5 minutes of walk, I saw the observatory, which I had just visited an hour ago.

Yuga Kurita Jukkoku Touge Observatory Mount Fuji_DSC7893

Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR

Oh I didn’t have to pay 430 yen for the cable car! It’s an easy walk! Every photographers should go location hunting. I’ll visit this place again for serious shooting.

I returned to the cemeteries. Still, there were so many people there although it was a weekday. I was amazed at how people in this area care about their deceased family members and ancestors. Then I saw cluster amaryllis flowers. In Japan, they’re called Higanbana, which means equinoctial flowers.

Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR

Ah! Higanbanas are blooming. I pressed the shutter button to capture them. Just then, I came to realise a fact that it was Ohigan! Equinox day! It’s a national holiday! In Japan, we visit cemeteries and thank our ancestors on the spring and autumn equinox days. It is traditional custom related to Buddhism.  Oh Jesus! No, I mean Siddhartha! That is why it was so crowded! ICIC Now I see!

It was definitely a Eureka moment. I have no doubt Nicolaus Copernicus had the exact same feeling when he came to realise a fact that the Earth orbits the sun. Honestly speaking, I believe there isn’t such a point as the centre of the universe and both perspectives can be true. The Copernican theory is sensible as long as our activities are limited within the solar system.  But, in an interstellar civilisation, people would probably believe that the super massive black hole inside the bulge is the centre of the world and everything orbits around it.

It was just another Tuesday till a short time ago. But now it is a holiday in my brain. Unlike other holidays, it is based on astronomy. It is a scientifically reasonable holiday and is important not only for Buddhists but also for members of the Golden Dawn. I can’t believe  myself that I forgot such an important day. But, at the same time, I thought I’m probably one of the happiest people who don’t need to care about the calendar.

Sony α7 w/ FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS SEL2870 (ILCE-7K)

So I jumped on the Tomei Highway to visit the grave of my parents in Kawaguchi, Saitama. My dad loved Chip Star crisps. I couldn’t buy Kentucky fried chicken on my way there so bought an Ohagi (Japanese sweet made with sweet rice and sweet azuki), which is traditionally offered to ancestors in Japan on equinox days. Next time, I will bring KFC.