To date, more than 400 caves have been discovered beneath Akiyoshidai, the largest karst in Japan. Several of the larger caves are open to the public, and of these, Akiyoshido is the largest as well as being the largest cavern system in Japan.
Originally named Taki ana (waterfall hole) it was renamed by Crown Prince Showa when he visited in 1926, The cave is 10km in length, though only 1.5km is open to the public.
You enter along an elevated walkway into a vertical gash in the cliff wall out of which flows the underground river. The first section is huge, at places 100m wide, and is more like an aircraft hangar or cathedral. The temperature is a pleasant 16 degrees (62 Fahrenheit), and stays constant year round so the caves can be visited no matter the season or weather.
Further back in the cave the path leaves the river and twists and turns and climbs through some of the side caves. Here you can see classic stalagtites and stalagmites and a whole variety of fantastic formations. Colored lighting makes the most of these features. Most of the formations have names, "King of the Cavern", and "100 Limestone Pools" are pictured here.
At the rear of the cavern is an elevator up to the Akiyoshidai plateau, so if you didn't want to walk back through the cave you can exit this way and explore the plateau. A shuttle bus runs you back to Akiyoshido Town.
The cavern is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm daily, and entrance is 1200yen.
Akiyoshido can be reached by bus from Hagi, Yamaguchi City, or Shin Yamaguchi Shinkansen station.
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Tuesday, July 01, 2008