Amanohashidatezu Invert Ekkenkan View

Log of Photography on Amanohashidate


There are several famous viewpoints around Amanohashidate, many of which are accompanied by the character "観" (kan), meaning "view" or "vista." For example, Amanohashidate Viewland has the Hiryu-kan (Flying Dragon View) and Kasamatsu Park has the Shoryu-kan (Soaring Dragon View). However, the exact viewpoint depicted in Sesshu's "Amanohashidate-zu" (Amanohashidate Picture) is not known. From the elements portrayed in the painting, it is speculated that it depicts the view of Amanohashidate from the southeast, around the Kurita Peninsula. As a result, an observation point at Kurita Peninsula's Shishizaki Inari Shrine is named Sesshu-kan. However, this observation point is located at an elevation of just over 200 meters, which is not the approximately 900-meter height needed to capture Sesshu's composition. It seems that his viewpoint does not exist.


So, how did he paint it?


Currently, it is assumed that "Amanohashidate-zu" was not painted from a single viewpoint. Sesshu thoroughly explored and observed the surrounding area, sketching each element and incorporating them into the pictorial space. There is a theory proposed by Toshio Nakajima, a researcher of Tango history, that the mountain range of Kurita Peninsula in the lower part of the painting was sketched by reversing the peninsula itself from Amanohashidate reef. However, simply combining these parts is not enough to create "Amanohashidate-zu." It requires a vision for the landscape and a concept for the pictorial space.


The NariaihonsakamichiRoad is an ancient pilgrimage route to Nariai-ji Temple, which is also depicted in "Amanohashidate-zu." Although this approach had been in a state of disrepair for a long time, it was renovated in 2017 and revived as a pilgrimage route. However, due to the steep slope, many people choose to take a cable car or lift to Amanohashidate Kasamatsu Park and then take a bus to Nariai-ji Temple. But for me, there was significance in walking this pilgrimage route that dates back to the Muromachi period. It was because there was a visionary viewpoint called Ekken-kan.


Ekken-kan is an observation point that the Edo period botanist Kaibara Ekiken praised as the best among the Three Famous Views of Japan during his ascent to Nariai-ji Temple. Currently, there are several locations where you can see Amanohashidate in a straight line, such as Oouchitoge Ichijikan Park, Itanamitenbodai Observatory, and Nariaisannch Observatory. However, they are either too far north or south, or a part of the sandbar is obstructed in the foreground. But Ekken-kan, though slightly north, is a place where you can capture the sandbar in the center.


The pilgrimage path was muddy and difficult to climb due to the rain that had been falling until the previous day. It was covered in mud. However, under the blue sky, Ekken-kan, where the wind blew through, felt pleasant. Amanohashidate spread out in a straight line. I fervently captured every corner of the sandbar, each pine tree, boats kicking up white waves, the townscape, and towards the Kurita Peninsula, completely absorbed in taking photos. After feeling satisfied with my captures, I left Ekken-kan. However, when I compared them to Sesshu's painting, I was struck. Sesshu's composition encompassed the coastline stretching beyond the Aso Sea, enveloping the town of Iwataki and meticulously incorporating its details, creating a vast pictorial space. Once again, I was overwhelmed by Sesshu's grand vision.


The viewpoints of Ekken-kan and Sesshu's pictorial space are diagonally positioned geographically. The scenery I saw was the opposite of Sesshu's viewpoint, but it is highly likely that Sesshu also traveled this pilgrimage route. At that moment, I realized something. Perhaps Sesshu conceived the idea of the reversed landscape of Amanohashidate from the view around Ekken-kan. It wouldn't be surprising if his concept for "Amanohashidate-zu" itself was based on the inversion of the actual landscape since there is the prediction that he had done that with the mountain range of Kurita Peninsula.


While attempting to create Sesshu's "Amanohashidate-zu" by flipping the photograph, I decided to stop merely imitating and instead focus on Amanohashidate from the location diagonally opposite to Sesshu, starting from Ekken-kan.