When going in search of any sight (including world famous ones) one has to be aware that it may not quite be the picture postcard perfect moment you envisaged due to the weather, people or vehicles obstructing it, construction work and so on. The latter was sadly the case here for this strange-looking observation deck in a remote part of Chiba prefecture.
Whilst perusing a Japanese website Chiba a few years ago I came across this 21.8 metre observation tower which was originally constructed in 1971 and consists of a set of interlinked platforms. Known as the Meiji 100 Years Memorial Observation Tower, it juts out into Tokyo Bay and is 100 minutes walk away on foot. I have walked such distances before but thankfully it could be reached by bus so once I was done at the temple in the cliff in Tateyama, I went about 50 kilometres back up the coast to Aohori Station on the Uchibō Line. From there it was a 12 minute journey on the Nitto bus to my drop-off point at Futtsu Park.
There was a map there but I didn’t need it as I knew it was an undeviating 2.1 kilometre walk that would take about 25 minutes. Little did I know that I would be stopped in my tracks after just a few hundred metres as the road was closed off. However, I was able to gain access (without just climbing over the low barrier which would’ve been very easy) by walking through the forest and there was no sign or fence blocking it off so I continued up the long straight road wondering if it was ok or not to be there. Worst case scenario in my mind was that someone would tell me I couldn’t be there but that never happened.
Due to consistently being battered by the elements, it has opened and closed a few times and on the occasion I was in town it typically had to be the latter so I didn’t get to climb this architectural wonder. Thanks to its location, unobstructed views in all directions are usually on offer. Not this time though as it was just diggers, netting, scaffolding and construction work rather than the chance of seeing Mount Fuji in the far distance which is supposedly possible on a clear day.
That was a bit disappointing to say the least but my time in this part of Chiba wasn’t a lost cause just yet as I had one more place to investigate. Back along the road near the bus stop were the remains of the test facility of firearms from WWII. There are four of these little observatory buildings dotted around the Futtsu area. They are known simply by the letters A-D and the map below appears courtesy of this site.
The first one (A) could only be accessed by walking down the beach back in the direction of where I had just come from (i.e. heading back towards the Memorial Tower). This is one of the easiest to locate and it’s easy to see how this facility was used for some kind of firearm shooting practice. It is completely vacant inside.
To be honest, I thought I’d only have time to find this one but I decided to look for a couple of the others. With only a vague idea of where they were located it really did feel like a needle-in-a-haystack job. I failed to find B but went in search of C and eventually I struck gold right in the middle of the forest. It should be said that it cannot be seen from the road and there is no map or signage in the area about these remains. As a Star Wars fan this did remind me somewhat of the igloo-like desert home of Luke Skywalker on Tatooine.
There was an imminent bus to catch back to Aohori Station so I had to rush off without even bothering with D. What happened next was one of those lovely moments of unnecessary kindness as I got to the car park where I thought my bus was leaving from. However, there was no bus stop sign so I went and asked the driver of a parked-up bus if he was going to the station. I thought he might be waiting until it was time to start picking up any passengers. That may well have been the case but he certainly wasn’t going to the station but he very kindly told me to get on and then proceeded to drive me a short distance up the road to where the bus was actually going to the station. What a top man and, in a country which can be a frustrating experience at times, such moments show the good naturedness of Japanese people.
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