If Nokogiri-yama was in Kyoto, it would almost certainly be an A-list tourist attraction. It has a huge daibutsu (great Buddha statue) that is twice as big as the more famous versions in Kamakura and Nara, and also an incredible image of the Kannon Bosatsu carved into the side of a cliff. There are also about 1,500 rakan butsuzo on the mountain, and it offers wonderful views of Tokyo Bay.
Unfortunately, though, Nokogiri-yama is out in Chiba in the middle of nowhere on the Boso Peninsula, and it takes about 2 1/2 hours to get there from Tokyo. I visited Nokogiri-yama back in December, and it was one of the most impressive places I’ve seen in Japan in years.
This is the Hyakusatsu Kannon, a monument to soldiers killed in World War II. It was completed in 1963. It’s 2-dimensional, but somehow the way the cliffs tower over you and the lines created by the layers in the rock make it incredibly powerful. You really have to see it with your own eyes to appreciate it..
Mt. Fuji from across Tokyo Bay. The area is incredibly scenic, and it’s worth having a wander along the seashore or a walk through the fields before or after you’ve seen the mountain.
There are about 1,500 images of Rakan, the disciples of Buddha, on the mountain. Some of them are in pretty bad shape, but there are some that are really beautiful.
View from the top.
Getting there: From Tokyo Station, take the Sobu Line to Chiba. Make sure to get on an express train or it will take forever. At Chiba, change to the Uchibo Line. Get off at Hamakanaya or Hota Station. The fare is 1,890 yen and the trip takes about two hours and ten minutes. The trains are infrequent, so plan ahead.
If you want to take the cable car, get off at Hamakanaya. The cable car is 500 yen one way and 900 yen return. If it is windy, the cable car often closes down early.
Most people who are not using the cable car get off at Hoka, see the Great Buddha, climb up the mountain to where the Rakan are, see the Hyakusatsu Kannon, and climb down to Hamakanaya.
Admission to the Great Buddha and Hyakusatsu Kannon costs 600 yen, bringing the grand total for the day to over 4,000 yen without the cable car. Yes, it’s really expensive and difficult to get to, but you’ll be glad you went.
Nihonji Temple homepage: http://www.nihonji.jp/index.html (Japanese)
Map of the mountain: http://www.nihonji.jp/keidai/index.html (Japanese)
Nokogiri Video at Must Love Japan: http://www.mustlovejapan.com/subject/nokogiri_yama/