Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom
September 15, 2005
The Daibutsu of Nihon-ji has a total height of over 31m. It sits cross-legged on a pedestal, one hand lying upturned across the lap and the other cradling an urn over the stomach. The craftsmanship is exquisite, but it’s the location that makes it so very impressive—a small opening at the end of a moss-covered path through the flowers and bamboo, the sea hidden by the trees on one side and the mountain sloping downwards behind.
The mountain is called Nokogiri, which means saw in Japanese, because of its jagged silhouette. From the peak you can look across Tokyo Bay all the way to Mount Fuji on a clear day and right along the coast to the Pacific. Among the folds of its slopes are temple buildings, 1,500 stone figures, and a Buddhist Kannon statue carved into a cliff face that’s just as big as the Daibutsu.
There are two ways to the top of Nokogiri, the cable car from near Hamakanaya Station or the trail up past Nihon-ji from the northern end of the beaches near Hota Station, the next stop on the JR Uchibo Line. A number of different trails cut up and across the mountain, branching off to dead ends where solitary statues are hidden in dark holes or to the overhang evocatively called Peering into Hell, a triangle of rock hanging 300m in the air.
The 1,500 statues of Buddha’s disciples were carved at the end of the 18th century. The stones were brought in by sea, then chiselled out and scattered around caves and sacred rocks. Damaged by an anti-Buddhist movement a century later, they look grotesque, decapitated and melted, bodies smashed in and pedestals chipped away. Find the ones with heads and you’ll notice each one has a unique facial expression.
The Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) statue is pristine by comparison, its flowing lines and curves set within an alcove of smooth rock. It’s almost 30m high, stretching right up the trees screening the observatory at the top. All you can do is stand at the base and look up in wonder.
It’s a long journey from Tokyo to Nokogiri, well over 2 hours on the train with a change at Chiba City. Although it’s a manageable day trip, there are places to stay in Hota along with a small onsen (hot springs) and a beachfront seafood restaurant.
From journal Days Out of Tokyo