When you’re ready for a change of pace from the congestion of Tokyo, nothing beats the beautiful countryside around Tateyama on the Bōsō Peninsula in Chiba prefecture.
Start your trip with a cable car ride to the top of Nokogiriyama (Sawtooth Mountain) in Futtsu. Giant rectangular holes in the side of the mountain reveal this was once a quarry. Today it offers spectacular views of the valley and the Pacific Ocean, particularly for those brave enough to venture out onto the extended viewing platform:
A short walk will take you to the largest stone Buddha in Asia, as well as 500 images of the Buddha hidden away in small caves dotted throughout the area.
Next it’s on to Kamogawa. At the end of the road leading up Myōken Mountain is Seichō Temple, which dates back to 771. Japanese guidebooks praise its “thousand-year-old” cedar tree, which has been designated a Natural National Treasure. But the real pleasures of the place lie elsewhere. It’s a multi-temple complex in a beautiful forest.
Plus it has a couple of surprises. One of them is a sponsored incense burner outside the main temple.
There’s also a stupendous stupa.
And the views of views of the coast from the parking lot are stunning:
Now it’s time to head towards Tateyama City, but not before stopping off at Zekku Ryokan. A 2015 winner of the Rakuten Travel Award, this Japanese-style inn is a great place to watch the sun rise over the sea from your room with a private outdoor bath. Savvy locals, however, book one of the less elegant outdoor baths that can be rented by the hour and still have terrific views of the Pacific:
The drive from the inn to Tateyama City follows the coast of the Pacific Ocean, which is usually as deserted as it is beautiful:
Once you reach Tateyama City you can – on a clear day – see a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji across the ocean. There’s Tateyama Castle, with its amusing recent history. (When it was rebuilt in 1982 they were unable to find the original plans, so they simply copied Gifu’s Inuyama Castle.) Or spend some time on Okinajima, a small island accessed by walking across a sand bar that connects the island to a large Self-Defense Force base. But leave some time to drive around the rice fields that surround the city, which are particularly beautiful in the late afternoon.
Tateyama can be reached by car, bus (from Tokyo Station) or train (schedules vary depending on the day). There are local buses and taxis, but the best way to get around is by car.