As great as Tokyo is, and I love it, getting out to see what is around is fun! Day trips from Tokyo offer a great respite from the high rise urban adventure! I admit that everyone is not a city buff like me and getting out on day trips around Tokyo to places like Mt. Nokogiri to see the Nihon-ji great Buddha (Nihon-ji Daibutsu) out on the Boso Peninsula in Chiba prefecture can be quite a rewarding day.
While most are used to seeing the Great Buddha at Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu), less than an hour south of Tokyo, the big Buddha carving out in Chiba although not a famous, is actually bigger in comparison. It is not quite a free standing statue but a carving attached to the mountain face of about 102 feet high, and is a satisfying hike or cable car over 1000 feet up! A much busier day to journey to than a local bus ride!
Where is Chiba?
Chiba city is a regional coastal city just southeast of Tokyo bay, easily accessible by local trains. Known for the Chiba Lotte Marines baseball club, it’s about 25 miles away, with just under a million inhabitants. The rest of the peninsula is all part of Chiba prefecture. Further south on the peninsula is quite rural and green and mountainous as we travel south from Chiba. The great Buddha is located on Nokogiri-Yama, or Mt. Nokogiri, on the south west of the peninsula.
The Boso peninsula and the areas of it are known to some surfers as well as most Tokyoites who took some family trip for one reason or another such as for an aquarium or one of the family packed sandy beaches that line the eastern shore. The small towns and villages of the more serene hill shadowed areas makes the mega urban sprawl seem like another land, like a dream away, with very few places more than 2-3 stories high.
Standing on the peak area of Nokogiri Yama, looking at the majesties of jagged hills, you will realize just how mountainous these volcanic islands called called Japan really are.
Getting there is an interesting day out on trains/busses/and ferries, as well as a cable car with magnificent views looking out over the green of the majestic landscape as well as the sometimes fogged, other times clear Tokyo bay. Then, a nice bit of hiking on steps carved and paved into the mountain, sometimes more than a little steep.
I could have taken a more direct ride from Tokyo station on the JR Sazanami Special Express to Kimitsu station. Transfered to the Uchibo Line and gotten off at Hama-Kanaya station. This takes around an hour and a half and costs 2870 yen one way. At the time I was living in Tokyo and lived in Yokohama previously so I just took a train to Yokohama station. There are several lines from Tokyo to Yokohama station, usually from 10-30 minutes depending on where you are catching it from.
From Yokohama station I caught the Keikyu line to Keikyu Kurihama (Express that takes 35 minutes and costs 410 Yen). From there, it’s a 10 minute bus ride (190 yen) or 5 minute taxi ride to Kurihama Port. I then caught the ferry across to the Boso Peninsula which leaves once a hour and costs 700 yen one way or 1280 return). The journey takes around forty minutes.
All of this is fun to me and gives you a glimpse of local life. You land in Kanaya, a small port town surrounded by small fishing boats in various states of repair. About a 10 minute walk will bring you to the cable car at Hama-Kanaya station that takes you to the top of the jagged Nokogiri mountain and you will be happy you did so. You can hike up the steep walkways through the forested jungly t if you prefer. Look that up. I wasn’t even thinking about that HA!
By the way, when you get off the ferry, look around. About 1-2 minutes on your right you will see a grocery/restaurant area called “The Fish”. You can grab a quick drink or snack or some water here, as well as some fresh sweet pastries! You will have chances for drinks with vending on the mountain when you reach the landing near the Buddha so no worries. It’s Japan!
Upon alighting the little ropeway car, (900 yen return) the Buddha is still not in view. It is hidden on the other side of the mountain and will take a little bit of hiking several hundred steps up and down and around. No worries, it isn’t too strenuous if you relax and take your time. It will take less than two hours to see all of the stops on your mountain map that you can get on site and there is a 600 yen fee for adults.
On the mountain there are hundreds of small Buddha statues and also reliefs carved into the rock walls. Many areas representing small places of worship abound as well as the nature you would expect on a mountain. It is quite lush, and thick, tightly wound flora in most places with small clearings.It is quite dense and jungly and you will be glad the work of the path makers is already done. There is also a fenced area for viewing on a high flat rock promontory. While up here, if you are on a clear day during cooler weather you may get lucky to see Mt. Fuji across the bay!
There are many day trips from Tokyo much more famous and touristy that this one. It seemed at the time to be almost forgotten to time. There is a new interest in Mt.Nokogiri but even among my Japanese friends few had ventured to it. Also on the mountain is a huge carving into the wall of the East Asian bodhisattva know Guanyin. It is referred to as Kannon in Japanese.
Mt. Nokogiri brings hikers and culture buffs alike as well as those paying homage and reverence to the symbols and deities on the mountain. Whatever your reasons, it is a nice glimpse that feel like it is the past as ultra modern chique Japan seems so far away. You want to experience the senses trip that is Tokyo, but at the same time that hiker in you just has to escape to be in your own element. This is one that takes just enough effort, and is just far enough from the big lights. It offers a glimpse into “other” Japan that you may not get if you don’t have the time for a longer more expansive trip. Another good article from an author who traveled there is here.
I will do my best to update the latest prices but as I checked recently there seems to be little change from what I have listed. Do double check online though if you are headed out there. The weather on the mountain can be cooler but at the same time the hiking up and down if humid can wear you out. There are vending machines on the mountain but grab some fluids at the shop before ascending and bring a jacket or layer for the cool evening on returning after exerting yourself.
For those of you proficient in Japanese, this sign may give you a little more information about the great Buddha.
Anyway, thanks for stopping by and please leave a comment below!