Todd Shimoda, Illustrated by L.J.C. Shimoda

Stone Bridge Press / 360 pages / 1 June 1998

ISBN: 1880656353

Guaranteed. You have never read a book quite like 365 Views of Mount Fuji. Probably, you have read nothing remotely like it. It’s time to correct that flaw in your cultural character. Run out right now — Hold it! Wait until you finish the review, please, then get yourself in motion and track down a copy.

Let me tell you why.

365 Views of Mount Fuji is actually a three-part narrative. The primary story line follows Keizo Yukawa, a mild-mannered art curator, into his new job as director of the proposed museum to house the famed 365 Views by Takenoko, an unconventional artist. You watch Yukawa’s attempt to change the monotony of his life by blending in with the insanity of the museum owner’s family. And, speaking from a personal viewpoint, often you just want to smack him.

Running through the margins of the main text are sidebars that clue you in to the past, the present, and the hidden thoughts of all of the characters. These insights are brief and subtle, allowing you a quick glimpse behind the scenes; the information you find is what you ferret out. Expect to have to think. There is no spoon-feeding involved in this work.

The final component may be the easiest to overlook and the most difficult to decipher. More clues peek out from the hundreds of illustrations scattered across the pages. Sometimes the paintings are just exquisite decoration. Sometimes they hold additional information pertaining to the sidebars and the main text. Always, they set the perfect visual tone for the story.

The three narratives combined do not answer every question; plenty of room remains for speculation. The threat of madness that hangs over every aspect of Yukawa’s new life — is he going insane or is he the only one who retains his sanity? Where are the workers who should be running the robotics factory? Why do the women he meets behave so mechanically? What has he done to attract the unwelcome attention of the Nazuma police force? And why is it so impossible for Yukawa to comprehend the concept of artificial intelligence?

It is a strange world Yukawa blunders into. The intertwining narratives accentuate that feeling of unease and disorientation by keeping you hopping around on the page. The characters are impossible to pin down. The past appears to be no more distant than the present. And, something about the whole package is absolutely spellbinding. Be prepared to fall into a hypnotic trance (no clucking like a chicken — sorry) that will keep your nose in the book, even when you know you should be doing something else. Then again, what should you be doing? Enriching your life, of course.