Fujino Love Letter
One artist’s mountainside tribute to his town
is a collaborative effort
By Kate Mothes
About halfway between Tokyo and Mt. Fuji, a familiar sight greets drivers and train passengers from the side of a lush mountain. Fujino, in the Kanagawa Prefecture, is a popular day trip destination from Tokyo, and Love Letter by Masayuki Takahashi is an outsized token of appreciation for a very special town.
The forests around Fujino are protected to maintain water purity throughout the region, contributing to a verdant environment that provides a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the cities. Home to around 12,000 residents, it has become a haven for artists with numerous studios and galleries, including the Fujino Art Village. There is even an app to guide visitors to arts events in the area. “In addition to having lots of nature and a strong community, Fujino is an incubator for sustainable living, artistic creativity, and enjoyment of life,” says Wes Heiser, founder of fujinolife.com, which occasionally runs workshops and residencies.
Takahashi‘s Love Letter spans 17 meters high and 26 meters wide and was originally constructed in 1989. Composed of metal pipes, tarps, hoses, and other construction materials, the scale and angle of the forms were designed be viewed from great distances. The artist taps into the mountainside itself as a collaborator, as foliage provides the outlines of hands holding an envelope.
“When I was a child growing up in Yokohama, the coastline was sandy beach. Now it’s unrecognizable concrete, warehouses, and apartment buildings. I moved to a quiet town north of Yokohama, but then a major highway was built right through the middle. Since coming to Fujino in 1955, the nature has not changed, and I think that’s wonderful,” Takahashi explains in an interview, also sharing that the town “is a ‘functional laboratory’ where I can experiment with art, agriculture, and other aspects of life, and witness the results.”
Over time, the piece has suffered damage and decay due to the elements. “Many years ago, the Love Letter was disintegrating. Nobody seemed to notice or care that the piece of art looked like a heap of rubbish on our mountain. People had forgotten to be attentive to their surroundings. Today, the Fujino community is positive. People notice the state of things. People care about their environment, their community, and each other. When my artwork needs maintenance, people notice and volunteer their time to help me repair,” the artist explains. He also incorporates community milestones, such as in 2015 when the letter was temporarily updated with the number 5 to mark the anniversary of the municipality of Fujino being merged with the nearby city of Sagamihara.
Takahashi has installed numerous public artworks around Fujino, including a pair of enormous eyes on another hillside a public entryway and an arch. He occasionally leads tours of the artworks along with discussions about their messages of consciousness, the universe, and caring for humanity and nature.
All work © Masayuki Takahashi, photographs by Wes Heiser