A Trip to the Edge of Hell

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!

Up up up!
Up up up!

Mt Nokogiri Mt Nokogiri

Mt Nokogiri
That’s where we’re headed!
Mt Nokogiri
Mountain Jenga!
Spot the human
Spot the human
Machinery from another time
Machinery from another time
Mt Nokogiri
100-foot-tall Goddess
Looking up to the 'tooth'
Looking up to the ‘tooth’
Mt Nokogiri
Jigoku-nozomi “Peeping into hell”
Mt Nokogiri
Not for the faint of heart!
Mt Nokogiri
“Nihonji” 31m tall, the largest stone-carved Buddha in Japan

Mt Nokogiri Mt Nokogiri Mt Nokogiri Mt Nokogiri

Coastal Hiking at Miura

I recently joined a volunteer and hiking group by the name of Jambo. The organization focuses on environmental protection and also supports programs in Africa, hence the name jambo  – ‘hello’ in Swahili. They are a great group of people, old and young, Japanese and non-Japanese, and all with a love of the outdoors and meeting people!
Please check out their homepage: http://en.jambointernational.org/

***

We arrived at Arazaki in Miura, about 50km south of Tokyo, mid-morning. The weather was perfect: sunny, breezy, and warm. After a briefing by the group leader, we headed for the coastline. The area is noted for its stunning cliff faces. From a distance, though, it wasn’t the rocks that first caught my eye, but the mass of tents! Families with little kids and big kids alike were camping along the cliffs, BBQ’ing, playing in the water, having a great time! What a great way to spend time with family and friends.

The closer we got to the sea shore, the more extraordinary the rocks became. At a quick glance, the cliffs look messy and dirty, but in fact years and years of wind erosion, water erosion, and faults and folds in the earth have resulted in incredible patterns and carvings. Geologists must go crazy here! The colours in the rocks range from light cream to brown to black. It reminded me of hardened lava pipes. I was so curious that after some research, I discovered it is in fact alternating beds of silt, basaltic gravel, solidified ash and volcanic sand. Could Mt Fuji have been responsible for this??!

Another thing that surprised me was the water… crystal clear, sparkly, cool, refreshing! I could see every little detail on the sea bed, from the tiny fish nibbling on rocks to the bumps on the back of the shells. Although well into spring, it was still a bit too cold to jump in. Perhaps another trip in the summer!?

Well, enough of me describing, take a look yourself…

Arasaki Rock
“Arasaki”
Jambo participants
Jambo participants
Campers
Happy campers
Cave formation
Cave formation. Note the vertical folds!
Rock formations 1
View from the cliffs
Rock formations 3
Looking up at the cliffs
Clear sea waters
Rocks jutting out of the clear sea waters
Rock formations 2
Close up of the folds
Crystal clear
Clear reflections
Rock formations 4
Black and white mounds
Island formation
Island formation
Sea bed formation
Sea bed formation
Hikers
Hikers!