Discussing Mount Hayachine, ethnologist Kunio Yanagita observed that it stood on, “a somewhat different plane from the normal world.” This could be a description of mountains in general, a landscape where we may experience nature in the raw, and even at times, a numinous presence.

Despite hazardous climatic conditions, treacherous features, and the large number of people who have come to grief on them, in his 1964 book “Nihon Hyakumeizan” (“One Hundred Mountains of Japan”) Kyuya Fukada highlights the benevolent characteristics of mountains, their function as protective sentinels and tutelary deities in the lives of those who inhabit surrounding villages and towns. Fukada’s criteria in selecting peaks was based not on height or reputation, but the following: “A mountain must have character; it must have history; and it should have something that makes it uniquely itself — an extraordinary distinctiveness.” Accordingly, Fukada writes about each mountain as if it were a person, with a particular set of characteristics, strengths, flaws and defining identity. In the author’s view, a truly outstanding mountain should also be associated with religious traditions, and accord with his assertion that, “mountains have always formed the bedrock of the Japanese soul.”

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