The rainy season in Tokyo typically kicks off in the first week of June, bringing about 20 days of rain in one month. The humidity is a killer but along with the rain, comes one of my favourite flowers: hydrangeas!
Deep in the mountains, through the spiderwebs and tangled vines, is an unexpected place… hell. Yep, Hell does really exist, and it turns out it’s not too far from Tokyo! At Mount Nokogiri in Chiba, stone cliff faces on the sides of the mountain soar up into the sky. For hundreds of years, these cliffs were cut into, carved and chiseled, serving as a stone quarry. The quarry was closed in the 1970s, and what remains is pretty remarkable. Standing at the base, you can’t help but look up in awe at the towering stone walls. Some parts are at least 30 metres straight up and down (perfect for abseiling!), others are cut into giant squares like a massive jenga puzzle. It baffles me how they were actually able to get up there and cut the stone, considering modern machinery didn’t exist back then. Another thing that raised my eyebrows was learning that apparently while the men worked at cutting the stone, the women carried the stone down to the nearby port to be shipped up into Tokyo Bay. Not sure how literally to take the word ‘carry’, but regardless, the history of this place reveals some extremely hard workers. At the top of the mountain, there is a unique piece of stone that juts out from the cliff face. This spot is called ‘jigoku nozoki‘ – peeping into hell – and is a huge tourist drawcard. You can walk out onto the extremely narrow stone ledge and look straight down at the tree tops below. It was pretty cool – not as scary as standing on a bungy jumping ledge – but my friends who were scared of heights were literally weak at the knees! It was kind of liberating standing there with the wind washing over my face, looking out to the ocean in the distance. It was a bit like the Titanic scene, standing at the bow of the ship feeling like you’re a carefree bird. Actually, the mountain was quite well known before it even became a quarry. It’s home to Nihon-ji, a Buddhist temple, which has a 1300 year history. A 100-foot-high Daibutsu was created in 1783. It’s the biggest stone-carved Buddha statue in Japan. More recently, a relief image of Kannon was etched into one of the stone walls. There is plenty to see! Although it’s a looong 2.5 hour train ride from Tokyo and is in the middle of rural Chiba, the hiking trails and spectacular views make it all worth it, especially if the weather is nice!