If you were under the impression that day trips from Tokyo are all sculpted gardens, quaint towns and pretty tea houses, think again. With ruggedly beautiful nature and dilapidated yet proud statues abound, a ‘view into hell’ and a name that literally means ‘saw mountain,’ Nokogiriyama is full of wonderful rough edges. If you’re looking for a daytrip that combines accessibility with authenticity and just a hint of mystery, head this way.
Located near the coast of south-west Chiba on the Bousou peninsula, Nokogiriyama gets its ‘saw mountain’ name from its saw-tooth profile, characteristic of a ‘nokogiri,’ or Japanese style saw. This feature is, in part, due to the mountain’s history as a quarry. Much of the body of the mountain was composed of Boshu rock, thanks to its geological history of volcanic ejects being compacted on the sea bed. Boshu was fire-resistant and therefore a sought after building material, popular for furnaces. From the mid-Edo period to the Meiji period, 560,000 pieces of Boshu were extracted annually. Quarries were in operation until the 1980s and today the mountain’s mining legacy provides stunning quarry caves as well as Nokogiriyama’s unique shape.
The stunning view from the top of the mountain is one of the main draws to Nokogoriyama. One of the highest mountains in Chiba, on a clear day you can see Tokyo Bay and Mt Fuji. If you’re feeling brave, head to the Jigoku Nozoki viewing spot, literally ‘view into hell’. The railings make this viewing point perfectly safe, however, the melodrama of the name is justified – look over the edge and the vertigo-inducing expanse is reminiscent of looking into hell itself.
If you have driven up the mountain, the closest attraction to the parking lot and the biggest spiritual draw to Nokogoriyama is the Ishidaibutsu (big stone Buddha). Sculpted 1783, and 31m high this carving is a seated image of Yakushi Nyorai, the healing Buddha. As this is a spiritual site, there is a stand for visitors to do ritual washing to pay their respects.
Although the Ishidaibutsu is Nokogiriyama’s spiritual centerpiece, the entire mountain functions like a temple. Yet another Buddha is carved into the rock face, atmospherically shadowed by cliffs and vegetation. Mystery seeps out of the 1500 Arhats, statues of mortals who have gained enlightenment, standing proud across the mountain trails. The statues vary in size and have unique expressions. Many are damaged and some even beheaded, but this decay adds to the atmosphere.
If you are driving from Tokyo, why not take the remarkable Tokyo Bay Aqua Line across the bay for even more splendid views. The Aqua Line’s tunnel is one of the longest tunnels in the world and the bridge offers views impressive enough that many people take the Aqua Line for touristic rather than functional purposes. The toll charge for a car is roughly 1,500 yen.
Alternatively, there are ferries across the bay. If you are taking the train, Hama-Kanaya station is just over ten minutes’ walk to the Nokogiriyama ropeway. For those who want to walk up Nokogiriyama, there are various trails, all of which reward hikers with beautiful views of nature. Alternatively, the ropeway has cars to the top of the mountain leaving every five minutes.
For stunning natural sights, terrifying views and spiritual fascination in equal measure, Nokogiriyama is a fantastic day trip from Tokyo.
- Facility Name
- Chiba Prefecture Futtsu
- Information Sources:
- NAVITIME JAPAN