Friday, October 30, 2015

A Day of Exploration in Chiba

After days of rain, when we awoke to sunshine on Sunday, we quickly packed lunches and necessary kid-time-occupiers and made our way to Chiba!

We were on our way by 0715.  After a quick drive to TokyoWan Ferry, we finally figured out which way to go in order to line up for embarkation.  It wasn't totally obvious (at least not to those of us who can't read kanji) which way we were supposed to go.  Luckily, we spied the guy with the orange baton and followed the direction he waved us.  Once parked in the super skinny lane, Kris and Clayton made their way inside the ticket office to purchase tickets.  I can't find the tickets from this day, but I think it was about 7,000 yen for our van and the driver.  Then, all other people were about 1400 per adult and about 700 per child ~ these are round trip prices.

The ferry leaves around 20 minutes after the hour through the morning.  In the afternoon the time moves around throughout each hour.  

So, we were on the ferry and away from the dock at exactly 0820.

We made our way to the top deck to enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful views.

See....the views!

Looking at Kurihama

Looking towards Chiba.  It's hard to see through the haze, but in the center of the picture, on top of the hill, is the TokyoWan Kannon.  That will be one of our stops for the day!

We were docked on the Chiba side by 0900 and off the boat at 0905...this timetable has been perfected!  Once we were off the boat, we made our way to Nokogiriyama for a little hiking.  The ride up the coast was only a few minutes.  On the way Kris and Clayton saw something interesting and said, "We HAVE to come back and explore THAT!"

So, we veered off the road and up the little mountain road where Google told us to go.  We paid 1,000 Yen to drive up the road.  We parked in the lot at the end of the road and made our way to the ticket counter to pay.  It cost us 600 Yen per adult to get in.

It's a fairly large lot for parking.

Nokogiriyama, "saw-tooth mountain", was a rock quarry in Edo times, with the rocks cut from the mountain used to help build up the foundations of Old Edo in its marshy land.

Nihonji Temple entrance

The beginning of the many, many stairs we would hike for the day!

After heading up the stairs for a bit, we walked through a little walkway carved into the rock and on the other side we found...

If you're fans of Top Gear then you probably recognize this statue.  It is the Hundred-shaku Kannon (100 foot Kannon), and is a large relief carving set back into the mountain.

Jigoku Nozoki (View of Hell).  
We walked along the paths and found our way up (more) stairs to that lookout.  

Tisha, Garytt, Mackenzie, Terra, and Clayton hanging out on the edge

The views were pretty even though there was quite a bit of haze in the sky.

The walking sticks helped with all the climbing for the day.  As we were rock climbing at one point, a lady walked past us in a black work suit and heels...brave or silly? 

As we wound our way through the paths...and there are many....we found the 1500 arhat statues.  I could have hung out and taken pictures all day long!  We walked all morning and still didn't make it onto all of the paths around the mountain.

There were praying statues, starved statues, angry statues, sad many different faces to see!  Seated, standing, laying down.  There were many statues missing their heads or arms.  Several statues had rocks laid on the shoulders because the head was missing.  There were statues tucked away in caves or in corners or up in a little dug out area of rock.

Halfway down the mountain we had to take a few breaks to hide from the rain.

This guy was at the entrance to a small tunnel...he's letting us know to watch our heads, low ceiling!

Sitting  peacefully among the vines

When we took a picture of this statue we noticed that the eyes are different colors.  

Statues missing heads and with rocks in the place of a head.

Notice the screaming head?  I didn't see it until Kris pointed it out.

The surface was worn away on some.  Others had moss on them.

Seriously...I could have taken a million pictures.  The rain kind of hampered that idea today, but maybe another time.

Ok...I'll spare you the hundred other pictures I took.  Just this last one with the green headed guy.

So, from where we paid to get into the temple grounds we went up many stairs, then back down many stairs and finally came to a small road that lead to the tallest seated buddha in Japan.  This 31 meter tall Daibutsu (Big Buddha) was carved from the rock in the late-1700s.  This statue was so big!  He is peacefully sitting amongst the trees.  A gentle figure towering over all the people below.  With his eyes closed, his hands folded, and his legs in front of him, he is quite a site!

There is a little hut here where you can buy small souvenirs.  You can also get your shuinchuo stamped here for a couple hundred yen.

Clayton and Tisha and Kris, Terra, Mackenzie and Garytt

Once we were done picture-ing and walking around this area, we realized we had to climb back up all of those stairs we just climbed down.  What?!  So, instead of  having the kids slowly make their way back over the mountain to our car, Clayton and I ran back up the several hundred stairs to the car and drove it down to the lower level parking area to  pick everyone up.  From there, Kris drove us down the mountain to this little area below where we pulled out the cooler and ate our lunches.

While the boys and the kids hung out at the car, Tisha and I walked around to look at the lower level temple grounds.

Map of the temple grounds.  We drove up on the Mountain Driveway (toll road) - "driveway entrance" on the left side of the map.  We parked at the little hut at the top of that road.  From that hut we took the path to the right, to the "hundred shaku Kwan-non".  Then, we continued on the path up to "Ruriko Observatory".  From there we wound our way down through the 1500 Arhat and then to the Daibutsu of Nihon-ji.  Then, Clayton and I ran (huff, puff, gasp, wow---my legs!) back up that mountain (what was it?  800 steps?) to the car and I drove back down the driveway to the smaller hut (about halfway down the toll road), where Kris took the driver's seat and drove us around to the "Free Parking" on the right side of the map.  This is where we ate lunch while Tisha and I explored the temple grounds.

Next on our tour list that day:  Tokyo Wan Kannon.  But, first...we had to make a little detour and explore the area Kris and Clayton spied on our way to Nokogiriyama.

So, we parked in a narrow spot along the road.

Then, made our way through the fence and toward the run down shrine.

On the other side of the shrine was a little walkway next to the water.

At the end of the rock walkway was this...

Some sort of hollowed out rock structure that the boys went in to explore.  They walked into the center of the structure, where there were a few little tide pools.  They were also able to climb up onto the top of the rock and wave at us on the other side.  The kids really wanted to join them, but the tide was coming in and it would have been impossible for the kids to make it from rock to rock in order to make it in the structure.  So, they impatiently waited for the guys to rejoin us. she is...the Tokyo Wan Kannon.  This 56 meter tall Goddess of Mercy is the tallest freestanding buddhist statue in the world.  It was built in 1961 as a symbol of peace after the war.  You can pay an entrance fee (500 yen for adults and 300 yen for kids) and then walk up the inside of the statue.  There are 324 steps to the top.  Along the way you will see several art pieces made by the same guy who designed this statue and you are also able to see all of the shichifukujin statues (7 lucky gods).  Once at the top you can walk out onto her arm or across the top of her head.

When we arrived around 1400, there were only a few other people there.  As we got out of the car (free parking) it started to sprinkle on us a bit, so we made our way quickly to the office at the base of the statue so we could make our way up the statue.  When we got to the window of the office we asked for four adult tickets and two child tickets as well as a stamp for my book.  What we got:  six free tickets, four sets of chopsticks, a free book stamp,  coloring pages for the kids, and our pamphlets.  The ladies behind the counter were so excited that my kids were talking to them!  We thanked them over and over again, then made our way on inside.
Our goods and my stamp

Mackenzie gets her first lucky god stamp

There was a lot of information about the construction of the statue.  

The beginning of the stairs

The seven lucky gods were spaced evenly throughout the center of the statue.

I'm not sure what this is (explanation was in Japanese), but it reminded me of Mary and Jesus

The view from the top

I think this was around the top of her head.  It was so windy up there!  And, Boy was having a few issues with the heights.  We had to drag him out to this area, but he only stayed for a minute before he ran back inside and then insisted on going back down the stairs immediately.

The windy stairs

The air holes in the back of the statue

After a trip through the souvenir shop and a quick bathroom break, we made our way to the car and back toward the main road.  Our next stop was to the rice paddy!  But, first a trip to Lawson's for some goodies to munch on.  While we were there we happened to see this across the road:

There was some sort of Mikoshi parade going on.  The guy in white up on the pedastal was blowing a whistle as the people struggling with the Mikoshi were chanting and moving the thing forward.  Then, the whistle blower would stop whistling, wave his hands in the air, and make them back up and try again.  They did this over and over while we were there.  We decided not to wait all day watching this, so we started to head back to the car.  As we turned around the three men that were standing there watching the festivities smiled at Mackenzie and gave her a bag of goodies.  They said she was cute, "kawaii", and waved at her.  :)

Our second bag of goodies for the day:

fter about an hour of driving through quaint little towns and many many rice fields, we made it to Oyama Senmaida - voted one of the top rice paddies in Japan, and the closest one to Tokyo.

Rice plants hanging upside down for drying.

We were all pretty excited to be out in the "country".  The views were spectacular!

Oyama Senmaida
Terraced rice paddies were much more prevalent before the 70's, but in today's Japanese population there aren't as many people keeping up the farming tradition...that, and (my opinion) the size of the population here is encroaching on much of the old farmland.  So, today Japan recognizes prefectures that take the time, money, and space to maintain the old way of growing rice.  In 2002, the people in Chiba prefecture were recognized for working together to take care of this large area of terraced rice paddies.  Known as an "Owner System", various people from the area work together to take care of the rice paddies in a relatively old fashion.  

Spider Lily

There are over 375 layers of paddies

As we came up the road to the paddy, we noticed a weird figure hanging on a pole.  Then, we turned the corner and got a good laugh at all of the different scarecrows hanging around the edge of the paddy.

The paddies seemed to be in different stages of growth.  I guess that makes sense now that I've read how the "Owner System" works.  Each paddy's development depends on the family taking care of that piece of the puzzle.  Some were recently cut, some were fully grown, some were in the process of being cut.  But, each piece was separate, and they all came together to create a beautifully landscaped puzzle.

I loved the contrast between the different shades of green scattered through our field of vision.  From the light green, newer plants, to the mid-green of the older plants, then back in the back the lighter shades of green trees to the dark, dark green trees.  Just amazing!

This is the machine that digs up the plants.

So, after we fully explored the rice paddies, the cool scarecrows, and the serene country landscape, we made our way back to the ferry.

While we waited, the kids had fun by the seawall...squealing with delight as every few waves was big enough to fly up over the wall and spray them with water.

Clayton and I quickly realized that we may get ourselves a nice sunset view on the ride home!

Here comes the ferry

Two of the Havens Boys

Our sunset cruise across the Bay.  It was magical...and...windy!

My camera wasn't able to capture it too well, but Fuji-san was peaking at us from behind those hills in the distance.

The inside of the ferry was pretty neat.  If you didn't want to sit out in the wind or around all the hungry birds swooping at the deck, then you can have a nice comfy seat inside.  There was a bar...I didn't check out what they actually sold.  And, there were seats everywhere.  Of course, there were vending machines to grab your favorite coffee, tea, or Pocari Sweat.  

A map of part of our excursion.  The red dot is where the ferry dumped us out.  The TokyoWan Kannon is down off the bottom of the map, on Futtsu Cape.  The rice paddy is at the green dot.  It took us about an hour to get from the Kannon to the rice paddy.  Several of the roads were toll roads, I think they amounted to about 1200 Yen.

What a fantastic day!  This experience was nothing like anything we've done so far in the last couple years in Japanland.  The quiet and peacefulness we discovered across the Bay did our souls good!