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Nokogiriyama: Hyaku-shaku Kannon

I got to go hiking at Nokogiriyama- "the saw-tooth mountain" in Chiba. The period of the area’s history as a quarry (from the 14th to the 18th century) is evident from the straight lines and flat, chiseled rock faces, and from the precise angles of the alcove inhabited by the Hyaku-shaku Kannon, a relief image of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy carved into the rock. At over 30m high she towers over visitors, bestowing mercy on supplicants with a slight frown that suggests she’d rather be out in the open air than stuck in her box. Despite her constriction and the lack of light due to high walls around her, she is indeed an impressive piece of work and appears dignified and austere. One of the lookouts here is known as Jigoku Nozoki, ‘A view of hell’, after the vertiginous drop it overlooks from its precarious-looking outcrop above the Kannon.

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