Sunday, August 25, 2013

cave exploring in Gujo

So most of the attractions in Gujo Hachiman are actually in the city and easily accessible by walking. One of the major attractions in the area is the Otaki Cave which has the tallest underground waterfall in Japan at 30m. No public transportation goes to the cave and we found out that a one way ride by taxi costs more than 3000 yen. I think the taxi basically has to wait for you to finish going through the cave and then take you back so the total cost to check out this cave would probably be around a $1000 or 10,000 yen. The taxi would have taken 20 minutes to get there and so my friend Yuna suggested that we walk there. Thinking a 20 minute taxi ride wouldn't be such a long walk I was down to go until I found out that the cave was 8km away from the city center or roughly a little over 5 miles away... At this point I was really meh about checking out the cave but my friend really wanted to go and a blog had mentioned taking just an hour to reach the cave by foot so I was like why not. Well it wasn't an hour away and it was raining the whole time we were walking. Such a bad idea! Thankfully some nice Japanese people on their way to the cave passed us as we were walking on the side of the road up the mountain and turned around just to give us a ride! THANK YOU AWESOMELY NICE JAPANESE PEOPLE! We were still so far away from our destination - if we had known how far we would have probably given up. At one point we did see a bus drive up the mountain (it stops before reaching the cave but at least the walk from that bus stop would be much easier than the walk from the city center), no idea what bus and where to catch it.

The nice Japanese people offered to give us a ride back down to the city but they wanted to check out two caves, Otaki and Jomon Shonyudo (limestone cave in Japanese). I was fine with that and had actually wanted to visit Jomon while doing research but didn't know how to get there. I was really disappointed with the Otaki Caves and wouldn't recommend paying for a taxi to see this place. If you have a car then sure might as well visit it but I wouldn't go out of my way to visit it. It might be because I had just recently visited Hwanseongul Cave in Korea and that was massive and mind blowing and compared to that Otaki was disappointingly small. The waterfall wasn't what I imagined it would have been - seemed more like a trickle of water coming from the ceiling.

the weird lighting they had in the cave made things appear green

The area around Otaki Cave was bustling with restaurants and souvenir shops. You can even pay to catch ayu, a sweetfish famous in this area. Included in our ticket was a voucher to get a fortune from inside the souvenir shop. Mine read small fortune (I only recognized the 'small' kanji) everything else was in Japanese.

Jomon was a lot better because the only light you have is a flashlight that is provided when you buy a ticket. Supervision wasn't very tight (which I've noticed in a lot of Japanese places) and I'm sure if you bring your own flashlight you can just wander right in and no one would notice... It was super creepy to just go around with your flashlight but it made me think that's how explorers must feel like when they go around back in the day. The mood was kind of spoiled with these groups of tourists and children screaming all over the place. So we let big groups walk past us and waited awhile in one place so that we could get the silence and creepy atmosphere we were looking for. Everything is in Japanese but my friend tells me that they discovered human remains in the cave and I think prehistoric Japanese people use to live there. They had sculptures built inside the cave depicting their caveman lifestyle. 

found a bat colony! they were so cute rustling around; not so cute if they flew at me
one part of the cave had a sign that highlighted the fact that this was bat poo - a lot of it

not crystals but water droplets!

The Details
Otaki Shonyudo: 大滝鍾乳洞
If you want to walk there head towards the train station outside of town and follow the Japanese signs for Otaki Cave. Be warned it should be an approximate 2 hour walk with a lot of it uphill. The Japanese information pamphlet has a map but the English one doesn't...
Hours: 10am-4pm
Admission Fee: 1000 yen

Jomon Shonyudo
Hours: 10am-4pm
Admission Fee: 500 yen

You can buy a combo ticket for both these caves at the Otaki Cave ticket office for 1300 yen (Package A). Package B I believe includes food. The Jomon Cave is cave is a walkable distance further up the mountain from Otaki Cave

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