This travel blog is a bit different – I’m not fantasising about visiting a city or a festival but going underground!
Ryusendo Cave is one of Japan’s three great limestone caves and a national natural monument. Set in the mountains of Iwaizumi Town in Iwate Prefecture in northern Honshu, it’s still not fully explored. Around 700 meters of the cave are open to the public, 3,500 have been explored since explorations began in the 1920s, but the caverns are estimated to extend nearly 5,000 meters into the mountainside.
Water gushes from the caves depths, creating an underground river and four underground lakes in the cavern. Several varieties of bats and protected species call the cave home. Only thee of the lakes, measuring 35, 38 and 98 meters deep, can be viewed by the public and the fourth, 120 meters, is the deepest recorded underground lake in Japan.
There are viewing platforms and underwater lights, where visitors can get an illuminated view of the lakes and caverns. The cave is accessible by elevated walkways, bridges and stairs.
Another attractive sight offered by Ryusendo Cave is its stalagmites and stalactites. They have many unique shapes and one famous stalagmite is in the shape of Jizo, the guardian deity of travellers and children.
Visitors can navigate the caves, walk along the underground rivers, explore caverns and peer into the lakes from the viewing balconies above. There is even the Ryusen Shindo Science Museum tucked away in one of the new caves discovered in the 1960s.
Outside of the cave, visitors can explore the parkland which is populated with seasonal plants. It also hosts a festival, which showcases local folk art, music and local foods. Even during off-peak times, you can sample local cuisine at one of the two restaurants.
Admittedly, Ryusendo is probably not going to be on most tourist’s destination list due to its remote location but it is well-visited by Japanese from the wider area. However, the cave and surrounding countryside look beautiful and serene – a far cry from the big bustling cities.
The best way to visit Ryusendo Cave is by bus from Morioka or Miyako. Access from Morioka seems to be easier, as it’s a 2.5 hour train ride covered by the JR pass. From Morioka station, it’s a 135 minute bus costing 2,600 yen to reach the cave. An overnight stay in Morioka might be in order if you want to make the most of it. For more details on how to reach Ryusendo Cave, visit Japan-Guide.com.
For my next ‘Take me to!’ blog, I’m heading to somewhere Mie Prefecture!