Japan’s highest mountain, straddling the border between Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures just west of Tokyo, has been an enduring subject in Japanese art. Ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai famously depicted the mountain from various vantage points and seasons in his series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, produced between 1830 and 1832. Perhaps Japan’s most recognizable natural landmark, Mount Fuji is also a spiritual symbol, its base the site of numerous temples and shrines.
Tsuchida Hiromi photographed a priest climbing Mount Fuji in 1972 as part of his series Zokushin (Gods of the Earth), which depicted ordinary working-class people struggling to survive in a rapidly modernizing economy. The stark realism of the photograph juxtaposed against the religious significance of its human and geographic subjects alludes to the changing realities of postwar Japan. Nagano Shigeichi captured a similar mood in his effort to document the pervasive US military presence following the end of World War II. Traveling to Gotemba, a city southeast of Mount Fuji, Nagano caught a dynamic, somewhat disturbing image of children playing near a US military base.