Mount Nokogiri or Nokogiriyama (鋸山)

Today we are going to talk a little more in depth about Mount Nokogiri (鋸山), a beautiful excursion from Tokyo. I think it’s the one I liked the most (so far). His thing is to get up early and go early since the road is long and slow to get there.

Nokogiriyama (鋸山) is a 330-meter mountain on the western coast of the Bōsō Peninsula in southern Chiba Prefecture. Its name means mountain range. It faces the Uraga Channel, the waterway that connects Tokyo Bay and Sagami Gulf. The distinctive features of Mount Nokogiri are its sawtooth-shaped ridges (hence its name). These were created by the extraction of building stone during the Edo period.

Stretching along the slopes of the mountain is Nihonji Temple (日本寺), a Sōtō Zen Buddhist temple (曹洞宗). It was built in the year 725, which makes it one of the oldest temples in the Kantō region.

The temple complex is extensive and consists of multiple areas. A network of walking trails connects the areas that will take us a whole morning to explore and enjoy.

Here we leave you a map taken from the official website of the Nihonji Temple (in Japanese):

Nihonji Temple (日本寺)

It was inaugurated on June 8, 725 by Emperor Shōmu Tennō and the priest Bosatsu Gyōki (行基). He first belonged to the Hosso sect, then to the Tendai sect, and then to the Shingon sect. It became the Sōtō Zen sect during the reign of the third shōgun Tokugawa Iemitsu when it became a center of Zen practice.

In the Kantō region, Nihon-ji is the only Nara Period temple built by imperial decree (such temples were known as chokugansho (勅願所)). Some ancient documents say that the emperor donated 18 tons of gold to the temple. An imperial tablet written by the emperor himself and a scroll depicting 33 Buddha images personally embroidered by Empress Kōmyō.

According to the historical stone monuments that still exist today, the temple consisted of seven shrines, twelve monastic buildings and one hundred lodges for priests.

The temple’s fame reached its peak in the Edo period (1603-1868), especially under the rule of the third shōgun, Tokugawa Iemitsu. It was in 1774 that Guden (愚伝), the head priest of Nihon-ji, expanded the temple and made Nokogiriyama into a sacred mountain. The Nihon-ji Daibutsu and the 1,500 arhats were added to the southern slope in the same period. The temple suffered considerably in the aftermath of the Meiji Restoration, when the haibutsu kishaku (廃仏毀釈), an anti-Buddhist movement, resulted in extensive destruction of temple property. Many of the arhats were beheaded, but later restored.

Sculpture of an Arhat

The main deity of the temple is Yakushi Ruriko Nyorai (Medicine Buddha). Originally revered solely by ruling sovereigns and judicial elites for his own personal benefits (to cure life-threatening diseases), Yakushi would later become the central deity in 8th-century rites to ensure the well-being of the entire kingdom. In the early 9th century, the deity was also called upon to appease vengeful spirits that cause calamities. The main feature is that he has a medicine bottle in his left hand.

Yakushi Ruriko Nyorai is said to heal war wounds, so numerous military commanders have visited this temple. After losing the Battle of Mount Ishibashi, Minamoto no Yoritomo prayed for luck at Nihonji Temple.

Immediately after the start of the Kamakura Shogunate, Minamoto no Yoritomo set about demolishing all Japanese temples that were in disrepair, and rebuilt the Yakushi Honden in the first year of Yowa (1181). Nihonji Temple, which was completely renovated by Yoritomo, would be devastated again due to the continuous fire of the second half of the Kamakura Shogunate, but Takashi Ashikaga will rebuild it again in the 14th century. It was also rebuilt again in the 16th century by the Satomi clan, the local warlords of Awa Province.

Visiting Mount Nokogiri

The most common and popular entrance is the one that is made through the cable car located in the city of Kanaya.

It is convenient to bring water since we will only find water in the vending machines that are next to the Big Buddha and next to the cable car exit.

The only public baths are also very close to the Big Buddha.

The entrance fee (2020) is ¥600 for adults and ¥400 for children.

Summit Area (山頂エリア)

We entered from the cable car station, where there are vending machines for drinks and a small restaurant.

From this point we have spectacular views of the area surrounding Kanaya and of Hota.

From here starts the path that leads to the door where we pay our entrance and they give us a map and an informative brochure.

We climbed about a million steps and arrived at the spectacular and gigantic 30-meter sculpture of Hyaku-Shaku Kannon (百尺観音). Although it looks like it has been here for centuries, it was carved between 1960 and 1966 to commemorate the victims of World War II and traffic accidents. He is revered as a deity to protect the safety of nautical, air, and land transportation.

Hyaku-Shaku Kannon (百尺観音)

After climbing about another million steps in the tremendously humid July heat, we arrived at the Jigoku Nozoki (地獄のぞき) viewing area, the “View of Hell”. The most famous and spectacular viewpoint in Nokogiriyama, it offers stunning views of the Bōsō Peninsula and the Uraga Channel. Across the bay, you can see the Miura Peninsula and, on clear days, Mount Fuji. It consists of a small ledge on the mountain from which there are truly spectacular views while you seem to be suspended in the air. You have to queue to gain access since, from the front, you can take some very cool photos at the viewpoint.

Jigoku Nozoki (地獄のぞき), the “View of Hell”

Rakan Area (羅漢エリア)

After taking the obligatory photos we began the descent. We do it along the main path, the path of the 1,500 arhats (千五百羅漢).

In Buddhism, an arhat is someone who has gained a deep understanding of the true nature of existence, who has reached nirvana and therefore will not reincarnate.

Arhat sculptures

Like Arhats in other parts of Asia, they resemble Li Guangxiu’s brilliant set of figures at the Bamboo Temple outside Kunming in China: each facial expression is different, from the beatific to the Tradition holds that if you start Counting your own age from a certain figure, you will arrive at the Arhat that most resembles your own character and your inner being. You may not like what you find.

Well, on the slope of the mountain there are stone images of 1,500 Tokai Arhats, made by the artist Jingorō Eirei Ōno and his 27 students during 19 years (between 1779 and 1798), carved in a special stone brought from the Izu peninsula. . These Tokai Arhats are found in small natural caves and on carved rocks. Unfortunately, many were destroyed during an Anti-Buddhist Movement in the Meiji period, between 1868 and 1873, reducing their number to 538. That is why sometimes only parts of the statues remain. Many of them have recently been restored.

The way down is truly incredible, with the sculptures in the spectacular wooded setting of the mountain, making you forget the tremendous summer heat.

Explanada del Gran Buda de Nokogiri (大仏広場)

Halfway up the mountain we find the jewel of the temple: the statue of the Great Buddha of Nokogiri or Nihon-ji Daibutsu (日本寺大仏).

It was originally carved out of the same rock it stood on in 1783 (third year of Tenmei) by Jingorō Eirei Ōno and his 27 students and measured 37 meters. At the end of the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), due to erosion by wind and rain, it collapsed. The sculpture that we see today dates from 1969 and measures 31 meters, 7 less than the original.

It rises from a semicircular base, in the shape of overlapping lotus buds, to a stone halo resembling a disk and with “little” Buddhas surrounding Yakushi Ruriko Nyorai.

The sculpture is spectacular and leaves you speechless. On the esplanade there is a kind of shaded picnic area where you can rest in the shade and have a cool drink from one of the vending machines that are here.

Middle Zone (中腹エリア)

After a well-deserved rest, we begin the descent again, passing through several temple buildings, such as the Yakushi Honden (薬師本殿医王殿), destroyed by the great fire of 1944 and rebuilt in 1997.

Yakushi Honden (薬師本殿(醫王殿)

Omotesando Area (表参道エリア)

Already in the lower part, we can find the Shinji-ike pond (心字池) and some more buildings such as the Kannondou (観音堂).

Kannondou (観音堂)

Here the route of Mount Nokogiri ends, about two hours approximately. An excursion that will not leave you indifferent.

To return to Tokyo, the most practical thing is to take the train from the JR Hota station, which is about a 20-minute walk between crops from the entrance to the complex of the mount, to the JR Hama-Kanaya station and there return to take the boat towards Kurihama.

How to get to Mount Nokogiri

To get to Mount Nokogiri from central Tokyo, it is best to go to Shinagawa Station (品川駅).

From Shinagawa, if you have JRPass, it is best to take the JR Yokosuka Line via Kurihama, to JR Kurihama Station which takes 1 hour and 20 minutes. Without JRPass, the price is ¥940.

If you don’t have a JRPass, it’s best to take the private Keikyu Main Line, which a little further on, at Horinouchi station, becomes the Keikyu Kurihama line (you don’t have to get out of the car), also from Shinagawa to the station Keikyu-Kurihama. The journey takes 1 hour and 9 minutes and costs ¥800.

If we go with JR, from Kurihama station we have to walk to Keikyu-Kurihama station, which is just opposite. At the main entrance, we got on the number 7 or number 8 bus to the Tokyo Wan Ferry stop, next to the ferry terminal. The journey takes about 12 minutes and costs ¥200 (€1.55).

The company in charge of the ferries is Tokyo Wan Ferry and its website is:

Ticket prices are (2022):

One WayRound trip
*Children up to 12 years

The ferry ride takes about 40 minutes and we arrive at Kanaya Port in Chiba.

Mount Nokogiri can be reached via the Nokogiri Cable Car, about a 13-minute walk from the port or 10 from JR Hama-Kanaya Station.

Ticket prices are (2022):

One WayRound Trip
*Children up to 12 years

Hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. between November 16 and February 15 (winter) and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from February 16 to November 15.

It can also be reached by climbing the more than 2,600 steps from Nihon-ji Temple (a 20-minute walk from JR Hota).

For more information you can visit the official website