The early morning scene at a railway station is fun of an unfathomable tension, a mixture of noise and calm. The myriad images of the commuters, regular train customers all, are so entangled that they scramble the very mechanism of human sight.
It is merely one of the endless scenes we encounter in the city and the details gradually fade from our view. Amid such confusion, we can even forget to lament the lack of clear distinction between the seasons. We end up thinking that that might be for the best for, after all, we would be “out of touch with reality” if we overdid such lamentation. The dreary scene around the railway station is auto-depreciating.
But when I reach the top of the stairway, a fine view suddenly unfolds in front of me, Mt. Fuji breaking into view beyond the rows of bleak houses. Nowadays, one hardly ever thinks of Mt. Fuji, so this very modest scene reminds mc of the noble character it had in a more tranquil age. Artless though it may be, it reminds me of my childhood days, of dreams and fantasies. I can’t help but be in a good mood. Even when I act foolishly, people around me are kind enough to pretend not to notice. Most people are oblivious to such things. It takes a bit of effort, however embarrassing, to turn a coincidence into a drama.
There is something limpid and fresh about Mt. Fuji in the morning. As the hours advance, its outline gradually becomes blurred. Still, I can examine it in an its detail: from the moment it is mysteriously revealed in silhouette to the moment it is joined by a bunch of eyesores here and there. It is only in a spot like this that I can both view Mt. Fuji and be cognizant of my actually seeing this phenomenon.
The Japanese people have treated the spots from where they can see Mt. Fuji as special, symbolic places. There are countless spots in Japan-Fujimizaka, Fujimidori, Fujimidai-whose reputation is ensured simply because Mt. Fuji is visible from there. It is the inherent aestheticism of the Japanese that motivates them to value such places-the attitude of giving as much attention as possible to the composition and presentation of limited spaces. For restoring our sense of sight and beauty, deliberately dulled by self-denial, I might say Mt. Fuji is indispensable as something we Japanese share as a common mental image as well as a common symbolic place.
Most scenes at railway stations drive home the realization just how shallow human encounters have become. Until now, this building, which provides a stage for numerous people to pass each other, was nothing more than that - a railway station. But efforts to redevelop the station and its environs have instilled among local residents a greater awareness of the importance of protecting their environment. And this heightened awareness has led them to create a place to view Mt. Fuji right in the station. I’m sure this place will give us the space we need to turn our attention to changes in nature and help us rebuild the emotional capacity to be genuinely moved by the beautiful scenes all around us. It’s nothing to brag about loudly, but thanks to this the space, the railway station, where up to now people were only gasping for air, has obtained a new perspective that qualifies it as a special place in our urban landscape.
Text by Hiroshi Innami 1995/3