It’s a moot point for those who live there that the name “Chiba” is, in many minds, synonymous with images of hot-rod gangs, peanut farms, car dealerships, pachinko emporiums, empty lots with chain-link fences and giant electric pylons marching across rice fields — a purgatorial transition between city and countryside.

If parts of Chiba Prefecture seem like a well-planned wasteland, a place of banishment for economic failure, there is a rural aspect to the area that is often overlooked, where it is possible to feel a kind of wind-swept remoteness, places even of spiritual resonance. Mount Nokogiri, or Saw-tooth mountain, way down the west coast of Chiba’s Boso Peninsula, is known for being the site of Japan’s largest rock-carved Buddha, though this fact seems to be little known outside of the prefecture.

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