I was incredibly lucky to get a number of paid days off – so much so that it appears that I hardly work at all! But I am glad my school realises that there is no point in me sitting in the staffroom twiddling my thumbs with no work to do and no lessons to plan for, as all the students were undertaking their mid term exams.
So out of the four days of testing, I had 3 days off and the other day I accompanied my foreign exchange students to Yokohama on an excursion.
I had wanted to go on this particular day trip for a while now and the one thing that had been putting me off was how inconvenient it was to access using public transport. Mount Nokogiri (Nokogiriyama, translated to ‘Saw-tooth’ mountain) is located on the coast of the Chiba prefecture, the next prefecture over from Tokyo. One would assume it would be easy to get to, unfortunately Tokyo Bay is smack back in the middle and needs to be crossed in order to access the southern part of Chiba – Futtsu.
It was an early start for this solo expedition, I left home before 9am and hopped on the train to Tokyo station where I then caught a bus to Kirasazu Station in Chiba. This took a little over an hour and we crossed that bay using the Aqualiner – an underground tunnel stretching 15 km.
From here it was a local train to Hana–Kanaya Station, about 40 minutes away. All up, travel time took me close to 3 hours. But I was determined to get here as the pictures I’d seen and the history of the area I had read about online seemed amazing. And the trek was certainly worth it. The station was refreshingly empty and appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. The air seemed fresher, the breeze crisper. Being in the nature is rejuvenating as the day to day of the big smoke can be exhausting.
I took the ropeway up to the top and marveled at the views of the sea and the mountains. Apparently on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji from Mt Nokogiri, but with my luck with the weather, it was once again overcast (but at least no rain!)
Then I headed over to Nihonji – the temple grounds emcompass many an attraction – from the Daibutsu (large Buddha statue) to 1500 figures of Tokai Arhats.
The temple was created 1300 years ago and its location on the top of the mountain meant that there were incredible views at the lookout points. I walked up the first of many sets of stairs to the Rurikou Observatory where I could see the ‘Jigoku Nozoki’ (view of hell). The view was really breathtaking.
Then i made my way down to the Daibutsu, passing a number of primary school students in their matching hats on a school excursion. I certainly under estimated how strenuous this day trip would be, and thoroughly over estimated my own fitness and stamina level. I was puffed out within minutes and had significant knee pain (I sound like such an old person – that which I am!)
The Daibutsu was carved into the rock face in 1783 and is an impressive 28m high. I climbed down what appeared to be several hundreds of steps and was blown away at the sheer size and beauty of the Buddha.
Despite the screaming kids on their lunch break, it was remarkably calm and spiritual. To be in the midst of such spirituality is pretty amazing.
Next I made my way back up those several hundred steps to see the 1500 stone figures. I seemed to be in the middle of a tour group of elderly Japanese visitors and often felt at times that they were finding the climb a walk in the park, while I had to stop and rest a number of times.
The unfortunate thing about this place was that, because it was so far away, I always had to have my eye on my watch to make sure I made it back to the ropeway, to make it to the station, in order to make the bus back to Tokyo. So many steps to follow and all in all I think I only had about 2 and a half hours there where as it took close to 3 hours to get there and then another 3 back. I wish I had more time, especially to spend at the last place I visited.
The way the sunlight was streaming through the autumn leaves was absolutely beautiful, not to mention the 20-odd metre tall statue carved into the side of a rockface.
And then it was time to come home. I have to say despite the inconvenience of getting here, this has been my favourite place I’ve visited in Japan so far. I would love the chance to go back, hopefully I will one day!