Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Mission

Ever since I first moved to Japan five and a half years ago, I've had this unfulfilled obsession with taking a decent photo of Mt. Fuji. I live close enough to the mountain to see it on a very clear day, but not close enough to take a respectable shot of it. I had today off but Fiance's employer, in a blatant attempt to make the baby Jesus cry, forced her to work on Christmas Day. The weather was clear and not too cold, so I decided I would put some real effort into satisfying my photographic ambition.

In the days leading up to my winter vacation, I had been consulting Google Earth to find a train-accessible vantage point from which to photograph my target. My research suggested that I'd find a clear line of sight from the cemetery behind Kômyôji, a temple near Kôzu Station on the JR Tôkaidô Line. The cemetary straddled either side of a walking path going up the side of a big hill called Mikanyama, which was the highest point in the immediate area.

I trusted Google Earth's guidance and boarded an Odakyû Line express train for Odawara. Odawara is not actually on the way to Kôzu; from there one has to double-back and ride two stops in the opposite direction on the JR Tôkaidô Line. But I wanted to go there to get some photos of Odawara Castle, just in case my Mt. Fuji mission ended up a failure (in which case I'd simply have written in this post that my mission was only to take photos of Odawara Castle...MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!).

But here's something I didn't notice during my Google Earth research: Between Shin Matsuda and Odawara, the Odakyû Line turns sharply and heads south for several minutes. During this stretch of track, the land to the west of the train is relatively flat and Mt. Fuji is plainly visible through the windows. I managed to get this shot during that window of opportunity:

Not bad, if you don't mind the power lines. Unfortunately, however, I do mind the power lines. So, unsatisfied with the photo I'd just taken, I continued the mission as planned. I got off the train at Odawara and walked to the castle, where I took these:

On the way back to the train station, I passed a little boy with his father. The boy pointed at the castle behind me and yelled, "Odawara-jo da! Yaaaay!" and then started to do a kind of Cossack dance as he walked. As he danced, he sang a song that went like this:

Odawara, Odawara, Odawara-jo!

I made the short trip from Odawara to Kôzu, my shutter finger twitching with the anticipation of my very own Most Dangerous Game. Mt. Fuji would be mine! I checked the way to my chosen vantage point on a map posted outside the station. Apparently I didn't check thoroughly enough because I then proceeded to get lost in the surrounding neighborhood for about twenty minutes. At long last, I found Kômyôji and the path leading up the hill. Just a fraction of the way up the hill, on the path between the two graveyards, I looked west and saw what would have been a perfect view of Mt. Fuji.

It would have been perfect, if not for the all clouds that had sprung up around the mountain peak during my visit to Odawara. The sky above me was flawless and blue, yet the sky around Mt. Fuji was hidden by clouds that didn't seem to be moving at all (despite the ridiculous winds I was experiencing on the hill). I waited there for thirty minutes, but the view looked like this the entire time:


All I wanted for Christmas was a photo of Mt. Fuji, and the one decent photo I got was marred by the presence of electrical wires. But if you think I'm above cheating to call this mission a success, you are mistaken, my friend. PhotoShop, don't fail me now.

Oh lord, mercy! It's a Christmas miracle! It's more beautiful than the Paramount Pictures logo! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

And that is the story of how I took a perfect photo of Mt. Fuji with no power lines, telephone poles, buildings or clouds obscuring the view. It's a long story. Maybe, for the sake of brevity, I'll omit the part about PhotoShop.

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