Japan Thru Non-Japanese Eyes

Lorne Spry

Lorne Spry is a teacher in Sendai. He has been in love with his native city of Vancouver since he was a boy when he used to explore its waterways in small boats and canoes. His interests are history, computers, sports, bicycles and Asian foods.

The First Time

Our lives are full of firsts - first birthday, first kiss, first job, first baby and so on into the adventure we call life. These days, the first I recall most often happened in Japan.

When I was a small boy, I had an old Japanese postage stamp. It was my treasure. It was small, simple and printed in only two colors. It showed Mount Fuji clearly, but without detail. It was not like a photograph. It was more like a uki yo e print - a perfect blue and white mountain. When I was a little older I sometimes went to the city to see Japanese movies. They were usually filmed in monochrome, which I still love today. Even in blacks, whites and greys, Mount Fuji fascinated me. I felt like millions of people around the world. The perfect mountain in any color was beautiful. It was mysterious.

Many years later I came to Japan. I was not a tourist. Another teacher and I came together to work for the same company. Our last experience of Canada for some time was the Canadian airplane we arrived in at Narita. An express train took us to Yokohama. Still another train, and we arrived at our new home. We were near the sea, somewhere between Fujisawa and Enoshima. We ate dinner and drank some beer. As tired travellers, we went to bed.

The next morning I sat up in bed. It was my first morning in Japan, my first sleep on tatami, and I made my way to the window. It was also my first time to open a shoji screen. I was still sleepy. But as the light came in, and as I looked out I began to wake up. I saw somthing far away, but my brain really didnŐt understand what I was seeing at first. Perhaps I was still in a dream, I thought. Maybe I was still asleep, I thought. It was impossible, I thought.

"Chris, come here!" I said.
"Huh?" came his reply. "What is it? Just a minute."
"Just come here!" I said, and slowly, sleepily he did.

We both looked out, and there it was. Far away, but as clear as in a Hokusai or Hiroshige print there was Fuji san. It was perfectly beautiful. It stood blue and white in the cold, clear winter air. We were both stunned. I wanted to rub my eyes and pinch myself to see if I was awake. It was more perfect and beautiful than I had ever imagined.

I have seen Mount Fuji many times since then. From Yokohama I've seen it in the mists and haze . I have seen it towering white above me in the early morning winter sun. I have seen it in summer as a burnt, brown cone. From an airplane I have seen it pushing its way above all the clouds around it, shining white in the sun. And you know, every time I have seen the perfect mountain it feels like the first time. Always it is no less perfect than the first time I saw it. It is no less perfect than my old stamp.

Perhaps there is a reason why I have never climbed Mount Fuji. It is beautiful and supreme just the way it is. I want it to be that way always - like the first time.

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