Welcome to Nirvana Fuji
In the autumn of 2003, I received a thoughtful thank you letter from my friend’s wife whom I had given one of my photographs as a get-well gift. She had overcome a serious illness and had just been discharged from the hospital.
“Your photograph makes me feel as if my spirit is being purified and leaves me with a sense of peacefulness. I will treasure it and look at it every day as part of my immunotherapy.”
When I read those words, I thought “this may be what I was looking for.”
In June 2003, I had undergone a heart surgery for the second time myself. My doctors had told me I was in serious condition. My hypertrophic heart had coalesced with my ribs and the blood pressure in my pulmonary artery was 5 times higher than normal. My liver function was declining due to hypostasis resulting from repeated regurgitation of blood at the mitral valve. All of these conditions were stacked against me and I couldn’t set my hopes on undergoing another operation.
Finally, I realized that I had to bite the bullet, but it was not an easy decision to make. Thinking that I may never have a chance to see them again, household objects such as a pencil or light bulb would seem so precious. If I had been able to do so, I would have drunk till I dropped so that I could disappear from this world without ever waking up again.
When I opened my eyes, I saw the florescent lights of the ICU shining. “I am alive!” The surgery had gone better than any of my doctors had expected, and I was able to leave the hospital after only 17 days from the operation.
I am most surprised to find myself sitting in front of the desk writing this article. The day before I left the hospital, I jotted down in my notebook “I shall spend the rest of my life serving the people and society that helped me overcome my suffering.” In that thank you letter, I found a way to act out my resolution.
It occurred to me, “what if my photographs could provide strength and courage to people who are suffering from illness?”
Today, I continue to take photographs of Mt. Fuji hoping to bring peace of mind, and perhaps a little bit of courage, to people who must face life threatening diseases. Last year, I was able to start a series of photo exhibits at a palliative care facility. At the exhibits, patients would come up and ask if they could chat with me. Towards the end of the conversation they would share their feelings. “Considering everything, Mt. Fuji is the best of all.” “Mt. Fuji makes me feel so peaceful.” Those would be their words. I realized once again that the Japanese people share a common affection towards Mt. Fuji.
I have renewed my resolve to continue my photography, so that patients who are fighting their illness can see all the different images of Mt. Fuji and somehow conjure up the courage to continue their fight.
<Profile of the Artist>
Gaku Maruyama had worked at a large trading firm until 2003, when he retired due to his deteriorating health caused by a heart disease.
He recovered miraculously after undergoing his second surgery and began taking photographs of Mt. Fuji as part of his rehabilitation efforts.
Since 2007, he has been active in welfare work, volunteering to exhibit his photographs at hospitals and charity events.
Gaku Maruyama earned a B.A. in law from Waseda University.
He currently resides in Shizuoka Prefecture.
<Origin of the name “Nirvana Fuji”>
The ultimate enlightenment of the mind; Stillness.