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The Mountain Man

October 18, 2009

"Volcano Asama" by Umetaro Azechi (image: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

"Mount Asama" (1953) by Umetaro Azechi (image: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

I am probably committing a huge infringement of copyright laws, but it’s nice to come across artwork of Japanese volcanoes that is not in the guise of traditional woodblock images of Mt. Fuji – as wonderful as they are.

I came across Umetaro Azechi (1902-1999) while exploring the British Museum a few months ago, where framed in the corner of the ‘Japan Room’ was a woodcut of his, titled Mountain Man. Simple, yet jumping out at you, the mountain man was defiant – perhaps a Japanese male refusing to go to the office; instead heading to where the real action is. I couldn’t find the same image online, but here is an equally simple print of Mt. Asama, almost South American in appearance. It could be the Columbian Andes rather than a volcano on the Kanto plain!

You can read more about Azechi – a keen mountain lover – here, a site which also includes a great representation of the winter mountaineer.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2009 1:40 pm

    In the one of the Yama-to-kogen magazines at the end of 2007, they included an Azechi print calendar – it kept me going all the way through the dark days of 2008. I can’t put my finger on it, but his stark representations exactly captured the spirit of the mountains. There’s something cold and melancholic about them, but at the same time hugely warm and enticing. I knew nothing of his background, but thank you for the link. What an incredible man, I wish I could have met him.

    • October 20, 2009 7:36 pm

      I’ve just been looking at more of Azechi’s mountaineer pictures, they really are wonderful. Would be great to chat to him about what he was thinking – I don’t really know what to make of their expressions…

  2. October 22, 2009 8:03 pm

    Many thanks for pointing me to the life of Azechi. Like CJW, had seen his prints in Japanese mountaineering magazines, but had no idea of the fascinating story of his life. Not sure that I quite agree with CJW that his pictures capture THE spirit of the mountains, but they certainly capture a certain strain of mountain life. Perhaps Joe Simpson would like them enormously ….

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