Things to Do | Visit Chiba | Latest update:2021/06/07
Mt. Nokogiri, or “Nokogiriyama” as it is known in Japanese, appears foreboding from its base, but reveals itself to be well worth a day trip from Greater Tokyo. It earned its name due to its profile resembling a Japanese saw, and not, contrary to popular belief, because of the parallel ridges that appear on its cliff faces. The latter came into being during the Edo period when the top of the mountain was used as a stone quarry. Blocks of stone were transported down the mountain, then shipped off to construction sites such as the fortress of Tokyo Bay, which later became Odaiba.
Although one is free to hike all the way up from sea level, most visitors choose to board the ropeway, which takes you most of the way to the summit. For those aged 12 years and above, the cost is 500 yen for a one-way ticket (for those with the ambition to hike all the way back down) or 950 yen for a round-trip ticket. For children under 12, the prices are 250 and 450 yen, respectively. The breathtaking scenery from the ropeway ride alone makes the admission fee worth its price, as such aerial views of Japan’s nature are rarely seen at such close range. Although, perhaps those scared of heights would be best giving it a miss. The greenery of a distinctly Japanese forest – and stunningly sharp sheer rock cliffs – whizzing past you mere meters away from the glass panes of your gondola – while not for the faint of heart – makes for a true escapade; even before the real journey begins. It may be useful to note that the ropeway’s operating hours are 9:00-17:00 from 16 February to 15 November, and until 4 pm during the winter months; lest overenthusiastic hikers be left without transportation back down. In addition, the ropeway closes once a year for annual maintenance, usually for 7-14 days in January or February.
Once you get off at the ropeway station at the top of the mountain you can begin your hike on a network of trails. One of the trail routes will take you to the mountain’s summit where you can absorb all the natural and mystic views unique to this magnificent mountain. As otherworldly as it may be, the trails are a bit maze-like. In order to avoid getting lost in loops, it may be useful to study the intersections mentioned on the top right-hand corner of this map.
The mountain’s Nihon-ji Temple dates back 1,300 years, and although the main temple building is currently off-limits due to renovations, you can still visit the three main attractions within the temple grounds that draw 300,000 visitors per year; Jigoku Nozoki, Hyaku-Shaku Kannon, and Ishidaibutsu. Everyone wanting access to the temple grounds must pay an admission fee, and those taking the ropeway will be requested to pay it at the West Exit Control Post, a short distance from the top of the ropeway. The fee is 700yen for adults, and 400 yen for children 4-12 years old.
The first point of interest – Jigoku Nozoki – sits a short climb from the ropeway’s mountaintop station and possesses a name which literally means “Peek into Hell”; being a rock outcropping which sticks straight out from the sheer cliff face, hanging unnervingly – but safely – a hundred meters above the ground below. This spot offers peerless views of the region’s harsh beauty, and tourists constantly line up to take their turn at this photo opportunity.
The second – Hyaku-Shaku Kannon – might be the most impressive in terms of rawness and intensity; a thirty-meter tall Buddha statue carved into the rock face of the stone quarry, it looms over observes like a spiritual blessing emerging from a jungle, with profound wisdom one might feel but couldn’t quite express.
The true prize of the trek is the largest free-standing stone Buddha in Asia which is located on one of the mountain’s slopes. Towering at thirty-one meters of height – including its stone halo – the mammoth sculpture was originally completed in 1783, but was repaired after earthquake damage in 1966.
Stone carver Jingoro Hidenori Ono and his twenty-seven apprentices (the artists responsible for Ishidaibutsu) had originally tucked some 1,500 sculptures of the Buddha’s disciples into the grottoes, caves, and coves that pepper this mountain, but only about five hundred of them may be gazed upon today. During a Meiji-era movement which sought to abolish Buddhism – in favor of Shintoism which deified the Emperor – broad-scale destruction of Buddhist art took place on these temple grounds. Thus, many of the “disciple” statues now find themselves headless, or with severed heads plastered back on.
To access the site, the journey takes two hours from Tokyo Station to Hamakanaya Station. From there a ten-minute walk will bring you to the ropeway station at the mountain’s base. From Yokohama, it is easier to access the mountain’s hike by ferry; board the Keikyu Line to Keikyu-Kurihama Station, then catch the number-eight bus (or walk about 2km) to the Tokyo-Wan Ferry Port. Your point of arrival on the other side is a ten-minute walk from the base of the mountain.
Nokogiriyama, Kyonanmachi, Awagun
(An 8-minute walk from the JR Uchibo Line, Hamakanaya Station)