Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Enoura Observatory

One begins to acquire a new level of understanding of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work – especially his seascape series – as the train gets closer to Odawara, where his art foundation is situated, crowned by the Enoura Observatory, Sugimoto’s architectural project that opened in 2017 after more than twenty years of planning. It helps if it rains, as it did on the day I visited, which makes the water of the Sagami Bay and its bordering sky look like two sheets of gray steel that meet at slightly different angles. “Sorry for the weather but Sugimoto prefers a rainy day, because the stones are very beautiful under the rain,” wrote his press office as I mulled changing the day of my visit. But of course he does. The rain highlights the specific melancholy beauty that comes out when you pay attention to the minute details of nature and of man’s respectful interference with it. There is a lot of such beauty in Japan, and though cliches like “wabi sabi” and “Japanese esthetics” are hard to avoid, this specific beauty, one that whispers and demands contemplation and slowing down and paying attention remains unmatched in its subtlety. Read Junichiro Tanizaki’s quiet masterpiece In Praise of Shadows, and you will understand.