Nokogiriyama

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#1 in Chiba

I can't explain why, but only a few travelers to Japan know about Nokogiriyama. However, I can assure you that this is one of the most beautiful expeditions that I've been given to experience in Japan's nature. When talking about going out of Tokyo, visits that come to mind are often:

  • Mount Takao
  • Mount Fuji
  • Fujigoko (Hakone / Ashinoko or Kawaguchiko)
  • Nikko
  • Kamakura / Enoshima
  • Izu Peninsula
  • Oshima Island
  • Mount Mihara

In my opinion, it's essential to add Mount Nokogiri (literally "saw") to this list, which can be done in a short day. The walk starts from the charming rural Hamakanaya station in Chiba, accessible either by 75 minutes of train from the capital, or 45 minutes by ferry from Kurihama / Yokohama (on the other side of Tokyo Bay).

After a short walk, you'll have to ride a cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain, giving you the opportunity to admire the view of the Boso Peninsula and on the other side, if the weather is clear, to Mount Fuji. From above, you'll find yourselves immersed directly in landscapes that seem to be directly derived from a mix of Lost TV series and the videogame Shadow of the Colossus. The atmosphere is incredible as soon as you start the ride.

From the station, a few dozen stairs go down to the entrance of Nihon-ji, a huge Buddhist complex in the mountain, which contains all the points of interest in your visit of Nokogiriyama.

It begins with this huge (30.3 meters) and very impressive sculpture of goddess Hyakushaku-Kannon engraved in the rock. The atmosphere is majestic, as if you were discovering a relic of an extinct civilization. Just behind is the vantage point on a small piece of rock, at 380 meters above sea level, aptly called Jigoku-Nozoki (which means "a glimpse into hell").

Pursuing the tour are 2,639 steps that create a maze of paths in the forest, to the largest Buddha in Japan. Throughout the hike are 1,500 Rakan statues (disciples of Buddha) whose faces are supposed to convey benevolence and accompany you. All were carved by master craftsman Jingoro Eirei Ono and his 27 monks between 1779 and 1798. Many were beheaded by an anti-Buddhist movement during the Meiji era, which explains the traces appearing on their neck.

Contrary to popular belief, the largest sitting Buddha in Japan is neither in Kamakura (13.35 m), or in Nara's Todai-ji (18.18 m). The one in Nokogiriyama tops 31.05 meters high! According to the legend, the statue carved in the rock (between 1780 and 1783) represents "a pure place in the world of a lotus flower", a symbol of peace and tranquility. It's possible to sit or even lie down to enjoy the serenity of the area.

Obviously, I strongly advise you to spend a day in Nokogiriyama during your trip to Japan. This is especially true while it's still relatively protected from tourists, hence exceptionally quiet.

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