We’d arrived via the Tokyowan Ferry (Japanese) and made the first section of the journey via the Nokogiri Ropeway (Japanese). The Kanto area, unlike everywhere else, is just recovering from its first snow of the year and the journey was cold and grey. When I looked out to sea, I could see bright patches of yellow-white sunlight on the surface where the clouds parted.
Little snowmen dotted the forest path and stone stairs led into overgrown areas of forest with abandoned wells and viewing platforms hidden beyond. The entire scene was reminiscent of a Japanese remake of Myst.
The Hyakushaku Kannon is around 30.3 metres high and found at the end of mishmash of stone steps and mud paths. The name literally translates to ’100-Shaku Guan Yin’, a shaku being an old measurement around 30.3 centimetres long and Gyan Yin being the Chinese name (itself derived from Sanskrit) for the goddess of mercy, Kannon.
Black kites circled above our heads as we headed to the rocky outcrop over Jigoku Nozoki, which translates as ‘A Glimpse Into Hell’. The journey up and down this was more difficult than I would have expected in Japan, but easier than it looked initially. There were no real steps, but the rock was worn away in enough places that it wasn’t too difficult to find a foothold. I didn’t feel much of a sense of hell, but I did have an eerie feeling on that mountain that still hasn’t left me just yet. You have spectacular views of the bay area at this and other spots lower down. On clear days you can apparently see Mt. Fuji and the whole of Tokyo Bay, but on a day like that we were lucky to see a handful of ships out at sea.
The eerie feeling was exacerbated by the stone carvings of Arhats, also called Sen-Gohyaku Rakan. As this is a holy Japanese Buddhist site, there are often several different names deriving from a jumble of Japanese or English attempts at rendering Sanskrit into native pronunciations. The first photograph of these below is particularly creepy, sitting as it does amongst many headless statues. I encourage you to click on it and have a good look.
The most famous sight at Mount Nokogiri is the giant Buddha statue, also referred to as a Daibutsu. Incredibly, although the statues in Nara and Kamakura are more famous, this one is bigger than both of them at around 31.05 metres (depends on where you start and finish measuring). And yet nobody knows about it. My current photography trick for spring is to find a peach or plum tree and angle my camera so the blossoms frame whatever is behind it, hence the main photograph.
Close to the Daibutsu is the Sacred Bodhi Tree, a gift from India to Japan. It’s currently under cover right now due to winter. Right next to that is a shrine for thousands of tiny Jizou, now buried under snow. From what I understand, in this case each one represents a wish.
Further down, we came to a Japanese teahouse. As we entered the garden, a man threw open the sliding door and greeted us in English. Inside, was a combined living area and genuine tea house complete with alcove scroll. As we took tea, we talked. The woman was originally from Tokyo, but has lived for forty years in Chiba. The man spoke fantastic English and had even been to the UK. I would guess that if this is your first time drinking tea like this, he’d be able to help you. We had maccha with an anko-based sweet first, followed by sencha with umeboshi youkan. I’d had umeboshi about five years ago and hated it, but I also knew that a) thirty year-old umeboshi are a speciality of Mt Nokogiri and b) these people were lovely and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. The jelly contained shreds of umeboshi flesh and was less salty than I’d guessed, sweet even. I didn’t even have to lie when I said that it was delicious. In total, the teas were seven hundred yen combined.