by Teresa Varty. North Vancouver, Canada
I visited Mount Nokogiriyama in August 2019. I was not sure what to expect, and I was in awe of what I came to see during the day I spent in the area. I travelled by car from Chiba City to Mount Nokogiriyama. I was fortunate as I travelled with locals who knew the area and where to park and where to get to the best viewing points. The Japanese people go above and beyond to show graciousness and hospitality to guests and this day was no different. We left for Mount Nokogiriyama early in the morning before the heat and humidity became too much for me as a foreigner.
The main attraction for me that day was to see the 31-meter tall Daibutsu (Big Buddha), which is about halfway up the mountain. The Daibutsu is a stone statue depicting the Yakushi Buddha. What I learnt from researching this carving after seeing it; it was carved between the 1780s and 90s by Jingoro Eirei Ono and his apprentices. It was restored in 1969 to what it looks like at present, and it is Japan's largest pre-modern (and largest stone-carved) daibutsu.
Towards the top of the mountain stands a 30-meter tall Hyaku-Shaku Kannon, depicting the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Completed in 1966 it is carved into a stone quarry, and it is dedicated to those who died in wars, of sickness or in accidents. The Goddess is there for the safety of navigation, aviation, and land traffic.
At the peak of the mountain, we took a walk onto a ledge – I was very grateful for the metal fencing – it is very high up, and if you fear heights this could be intimidating. It is called “Jigoku Nozoki" (Hell Lookout). The view is of a rock jutting off a sheer cliff. From the lookout, you can enjoy views of the Boso Peninsula and Tokyo Bay.
Along the walkways, pathways and stairs are many carved statues of Buddhist disciples (rakan), carved out of stone. They are tucked into rock caves and under overhangs. Most are behind metal post protection as many have been previously damaged. They are slowly being restored which is lovely to see. The statues all have individual personalities, positions, and placement.
If you get an opportunity to visit this area, I highly recommend you do, and do not rush the experience. Take your time and enjoy everything that Mount Nokogiriyama has to offer.