Koichi Shimano

Photographer Koichi Shimano portrays the godlike volcano in the grips of seriously profound and weird weather.

Artists throughout history have striven to capture the majesty of Japan's magma-filled national pride, from Hokusai's 18th-century woodblock odyssey, "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji," to Takashi Murakami's monster mound to whoever created the pointy logo for Atari.

Koichi Shimano's oeuvre slips right into the top tier of Fuji-inspired art. Since retiring last year from the Tokyo University of Agriculture, the camera-slinging sexagenarian has made devastatingly resplendent portraits of the volcano, which last blew its top in 1707 and probably isn't done yet. While other artists have focused on the mountain's hulking size or handsome symmetry, Koichi's work has a distinct meteorological flavor – he's intrigued by the immense cloud blobs that latch onto its summit, the Martian dust clouds misting its slopes and the thick fog that pools at its base, making the peak look like a giant shark fin cutting the sea.

For whatever reason, UNESCO has declined for years to include Mount Fuji in its canon of World Heritage Sites. Part of the problem allegedly was the mountain's status as an illegal dump – in a 12-month period starting in 2006, a local volunteer group cleaned it of 187,000 pounds of garbage. (There's also the issue of it being a popular staging area for suicides, but as far as I know UNESCO hasn't commented on that.) But Japan has since cleaned up much of the detritus, and it looks quite likely that Fuji will make the World Heritage list when the heritage poobahs meet this summer in Cambodia.

To celebrate this honor, the Japanese-culture website Spoon and Tamago has started featuring a number of artists who have been in enthralled by Fuji, including Koichi. Here are a few of the photos S&T put up, plus a few more that the artist is letting us use. As to why he's devoted his retirement to this mission of mountainous love, Koichi says, simply, that he enjoys looking at Fuji and seeing a new kind of "freshness" every time.

Photos used with the permission of Koichi Shimano

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of the Eiffel Tower with the words "Made for Sharing" projected on it
    Life

    How France Tries to Keep English Out of Public Life

    France has a long history of using official institutions to protect the French language from outside influence. Still, English keeps working its way in.

  2. Warren Logan
    Transportation

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

  3. People standing in line with empty water jugs.
    Environment

    Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ Water Crisis, One Year Later

    In spring 2018, news of the water crisis in South Africa ricocheted around the world—then the story disappeared. So what happened?

  4. An illustration of a turtle with a city on its shell
    Transportation

    Why Speed Kills Cities

    U.S. cities are dropping urban speed limits in an effort to boost safety and lower crash rates. But the benefits of less-rapid urban mobility don’t end there.  

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×