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Three Famous Views of Japan ・ 日本三景

Matsushima, Miyajima, and Amano-hashidate are known as the Three Famous views of Japan. Such was the fame of Matsushima that Matsuo Basho wrote in 1689 that he was already dreaming of the moon over those pine-clad isles before he had seen them. Miyajima, rising dramatically out of the Inland Sea, links ocean, land, and human artifacts in the most inspiring example of Heian design. The origins of Amano-hashidate go back even further in time, when legend has it that a ladder connecting heaven and earth fell to the ground. This became Amano-hashidate, ‘the bridge to heaven’. From above, the gently curving pine-clad strand does indeed appear to connect heaven and earth.

Again my skepticism about ratings proves unjustified. Viewers will recall that I wondered whether the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France‘ really live up to their name. They do. And so do the ‘Three Famous Views of Japan’. But who decided? Though these three views were already iconic by the 17th century, Shunsai Hayashi, who served the Tokugawa Shogunate as, in effect, head of the nation’s educational system, made it official. His endorsement has remained authoritative to this day. I don’t know how he selected them, but all three have dramatic interminglings of sea and land, are associated in some way with the divine origins of Japan, and in their enduring placidity symbolize the deepest aspirations of Japanese identity.

From its mountaintop perspective, Sesshu Toyo’s View of Amano-hashidate, in the Kyoto National Museum, presents a sweeping panorama of villages, fishing boats, serrated shoreline, and hills with mist ranging into the infinite distance. Sesshu painted this sometime between 1501, when the two-storied pagoda of Chionji was built, and his death in 1506. He was in his eighties when he climbed the mountain to observe this view, and clearly still at the top of his form.

Sesshu Toyo's View of Amano-hashidate

Sesshu Toyo's View of Amano-hashidate

Another view of Amano-hashidate is from the charming hilltop ryokan Genmyoan, overlooking Amano-hashidate. Owners Taro and Michiru Ishima and their staff provide a marvelous combination of traditional and original kaiseki cuisine, spacious rooms, and warm hospitality. Only two hours by train or car from Kyoto or Osaka, the calm and gracious ambience of Genmyoan (tel: 0772-22-2171) enables guests to fully appreciate the splendid view, which can be seen from 14 of its 17 rooms, and from its terrace and baths. An aerial perspective like the one Sesshu used to such superb effect, though from a different vantage point, gives unbounded scope to the imagination.

View from Genmyoan

View from Genmyoan

View of Amano-hashidate from Genmyoan

View of Amano-hashidate from Genmyoan

Descending to earth, one can walk the 3.6 km path linking both sides of the bay, with its many pine trees, and enjoy the view from the other side of the bay as well. Chionji Temple, shown in Sesshu’s View and in Waking the Gods, is said to impart wisdom to those who walk around a stone lantern there three times.

The nearby port of Miyazu has earth-bound concerns too. Vessels bring a special sand from New Caledonia that is used in the manufacture of stainless steel, entering the port through a passage made by a unique rotating bridge. Silk-weaving, a traditional Kyoto industry (and this is still Kyoto Prefecture, even though on the Japan Sea), flourishes in the Yamato Textile Factory. The factory store sells furoshiki (for wrapping and carrying goods) woven with twisted threads of silk, giving the impression of rippling waves on the sea.

Yamato Textile Factory shop

Yamato Textile Factory shop

A specialty of the northern Kyoto region, they make ideal easy-to-carry gifts. Among the most picturesque nearby fishing villages is Funaya, with its houses built right on the water.

So, Hayashi-san’s rating Amano-hashidate as one of the ‘Three Famous Views of Japan’ has not led us astray. Viewers are invited to recommend other deserving places, in the Comment box.

Printed from: http://www.kamprint.com/views/?p=320 .
© Peter Miller 2017.