Included in my all–time favorite films is Laputa Castle in the Sky, one of the best Hayao Miyazaki’s animation films of the 20th Century. We visited Mount Nokogiri in Chiba Prefecture to experience the world of Laputa virtually. For Hayao Miyazaki film fans, you’ll love these locations in Mount Nokogiri.
Laputa Castle in the Sky
Laputa Castle in the Sky by Hayao Miyazaki, made in 1986, may sound very classic but I believe it still has huge popularity. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll not tell all the details. To make it short, two main characters venture into the sky to find special castles.Laputa Castle in the Sky was the first Hayao Miyazaki animation film for my kids in their life. My kids loved the story but complained that the movement was not as smooth as the latest animation films. We can’t blame it. The creation way of animation films was totally different in the 80’s from 3D animation. Anyway, they loved the story and “Carrying You”, the main theme song of the film, has become my kids most favorite song to sing at Karaoke.
Mount Nokogiri (329 m) is located at the end of the Chiba Peninsula translates to “Sawtooth Mountain” in English, with its bare and steep rock surfaces. Mount Kenkonzan is the original name, but it has been called “Mount Nokogiri: Sawtooth Mountain” since the 15th century.Today Mount Nokogiri offers magnificent views and picturesque spots such as the Hundred Shaku Kannon, the largest pre-modern Buddha, and the 1,500 stone figures of Tokai Arhats. Many travelers simply enjoy a hike and take in Mount Nokogiri, views of Mount Fuji and Tokyo Bay. Indeed, the area is well worth a day-trip from Tokyo even without the stone statues.
Historically, Mount Nokogiri produced Boshu rocks which were traceable and fire-resistant and it was home to many quarry ruins of various sizes. Boshu means the southern region of Chiba Prefecture. Boshu rocks were carried to the Tokyo Bay to build Daiba fortress and to Yokosuka and Yokohama ports to construct port facilities.The quarry industry began in the late Edo period and was in operation until 1985. At its peak there were roughly thirty operations, making the town at the foot a prosperous town of stonemasons.
There are a few different routes to take, but if you are interested in the mining history of Mount Nokogiri, be sure to take a trail, just an hour walking from Hamakanaya Station at the foot of the mountain to one of the biggest stone quarries.After one hour hiking, finally a cliff towers in front of you stretched 96 meters wide. This wall is known as “Wall of Laputa” among Hayao Miyazaki’s fans and this is our highlight of Mount Nokogiri. It kind of looks like the mining place where Pazu, one of the main characters, had lived. There are no clues of whether the film producers got their inspiration from Mount Nokogiri, but you can get a feeling of it being Pazu’s home, Slug Valley. It is said that the real source of the inspiration is South Wales though.
My kids immediately recognized the stonewall as Slug Valley. The green atmosphere was a strong image throughout the whole film. Greens, stone paths and blue sky… the view from the lookout conjures images of the memorable scenes.
Stone Stage with “Safety First” sign
When the process of excavation changed from pickaxes to chainsaws, the signs of “安全第一 Safety First” were scrawled on the walls.
Shariki Michi and Toi Michi paths
Shariki Michi and Toi Michi are paths that were used to carry Boshu rocks from the stone quarry. The paths are steep slopes laid with stone to control the speed of stones. People who carried the rocks were called Shariki, and most of them were women. Each Boshu Rock piece would weigh 80 kg, and Shariki would carry three pieces at a time along Shariki Michi and Toi Michi paths.
Hells View Lookout
There are several lookouts on the way to the top. “Hells View Lookout” is the best location to experience the same scene of exploring the Laputa Castle in the film. The lookout’s name is unsuitable, but the view is almost the same while we can feel the rush of literally flying in the sky as the two main characters did in the film. The lookout is jutting out of the rock over the mountain and you can also enjoy the view of Tokyo Bay and Mount Fuji, the countryside, town and coastline below. Although we visited at the end of autumn, the leaves still had some fall colors.
Nihon-ji Buddha Stone Statues
One of the main highlights is visiting Nihon-ji Buddha stone statues in Mount Nokogiri. The Nihon-ji Buddha first emerged in 1783 and later had some restoration work done in the 1960’s. It costs 650 yen to enter Nihon-ji Temple but the temple is a must see for those who also love hiking. Yanaya fishing harbour is located at the foot of Mount Nokogiri. Crews of the fishing boats, family and friends pray to the statues for safe sailing.
Hyaku-shaku Kannon was carved into the rock. This approximately 30-meter depiction of the Goddess of Mercy is unexpectedly impressive. The term of “shaku” is an old measurement of length in Japan and one-shaku is approximately 30 cm. Hyaku-shaku means 100 shaku (30 meters). This huge carving of the Kannon has a merciful smile and people feel comfortable here.
Where to eat
The number of restaurants and cafes are limited, but there is a small store with lunch boxes and a meat shop offering fried chicken and baked pork as snacks. Or you can stop by at a convenience stores before visiting Mount Nokogiri. There are no food stalls or souvenir shops on Mountain Nokogiri, so make sure you bring some snacks and a drink!
How to get there
Take a bus from Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Basuta to bus stop Kimitsu Station Minamiguchi. Walk one minute to Kimitsu Station and get on the Uchibo Line for Tateyama to JR Hama-Kanaya Station. Then walk 12 minutes to Nokogiriyama Ropeway which will take you straight to the top. We hiked up the mountain and it took about one hour. The path is entirely stone or pavement, not counting the numerous steps, so it was quite easy.