Ain’t no mountain high enough to stop this high schooler on mission to photograph every face of Mt. Fuji

Courtesy of Keigo Suzuki
Broken ice is piled up on Lake Yamanaka — a phenomenon called yosegori — against a backdrop of Mt. Fuji.

FUJIKAWAGUCHIKO, Yamanashi — Keigo Suzuki is a high schooler who spends 150 days a year taking photos of Mt. Fuji.

The third-year student at Fujigakuen Senior High School in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, is the leader of the school’s photography club.

Early on the morning of Oct. 9, Suzuki was by Lake Kawaguchi where cosmos swayed in the breeze. He was carefully adjusting the height and angle of the camera and taking time to click the shutter each time.

Hailing from the town of Fujikawaguchiko, located at the northern foot of Mt. Fuji, Suzuki was in the fifth grade at elementary school when his grandfather, who loves photography, gave him his Nikon SLR camera.

“It’s big and heavy, but I find this rugged look cool,” he said.

He began taking walks with his camera and photographing flowers and wild birds before school.

Suzuki started taking photos of Mt. Fuji in the spring of his second year at junior high school.

It all started when he was overwhelmed by the beauty of “Beni Fuji,” or red Mt. Fuji, a phenomenon in which the snowy mountainside looks crimson as it is lit by the morning sun. In the 4½ years since then, he has been shooting the mountain, mostly between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., and he said he never tires of it.

“Mt. Fuji has so many different looks,” Suzuki said. “I want to take its photo every day because it shows a different face every day.”

Still, it takes a lot of work to capture the best shot. He has climbed a mountain nearly 3,000 meters high to shoot, and waited for his chance for more than two hours in the dead of winter when temperatures drop to minus 10 C.

“I feel it’s tough, of course, until I encounter a spectacular view. But in the moment that I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of Mt. Fuji, I forget all my hardships,” Suzuki said.

His best shot is of Mt. Fuji with the phenomenon called yosegori, in which thin ice on a lake surface breaks and gathers on the lakeshore due to strong winds. The photo was taken at Lake Yamanaka in January. It is said that yosegori will not occur unless the temperature stays below freezing for a long time, and Suzuki finally saw it after visiting many times. He said he pressed the shutter feverishly to capture it.

Other favorite shooting locations are those where he can capture “Diamond Fuji,” a phenomenon where the sun shines upon the mountain’s peak, “Pearl Fuji,” in which the full moon appears on the top of the mountain, and Mt. Fuji seen from the city of Fujiyoshida. Just by looking at the shape of the mountain, Suzuki can tell from which direction the photo was taken, so he usually checks photos of Mt. Fuji posted on social media and visits places where the photos were possibly taken if he finds interesting ones.

Suzuki’s photos are posted on Instagram, and he currently has about 18,000 followers. He made a calendar with his photos of Mt. Fuji and sold it online. The calendar sold well enough for him to buy a new camera.

At a screening panel of the prefecture’s Senior High School Cultural Federation last year, Suzuki won the gold prize in its photography division for his photo of Mt. Fuji with snow piling up in waves on the shore of Lake Yamanaka.

Suzuki will graduate from high school in March next year but will continue taking pictures and plans to eventually pursue his career overseas, including in Europe. His parents are supportive.

“I want to fly out into the world, meet my ‘second Mt. Fuji’ and keep taking photos of the scenery I want to capture in my life,” he said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Keigo Suzuki smiles with Mt. Fuji in the background in Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, on Oct. 4.