Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Ryugashidou - 竜ヶ岩洞 - Cool Caves in Hamamatsu

Are you tired of being drenched in sweat from the simple act of standing still? Is your electricity bill unnaturally high due to the constant pumping of cool air into your apartment? If you're experiencing summer in Japan, this is highly probable. Well, never fear, for I have found a day trip that will keep you cool and let you save that little bit extra on your utilities bill.The Ryugashi Caves - 竜ヶ岩洞 - are located north of Hamamatsu, and are cool in both senses of the word. One Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, Jeff and I jumped on a bus and headed up there. 

To get to the caves, take the bus to Okuyama (from platform 15). It costs a fair bit - around 600円 - and takes around 50 minutes. If you have a car, it could be a lot more fun to get there. The bus stop's name is Ryugashidou Iriguchi, I believe, 竜ヶ岩洞入り口 - and once there, cross the road and walk up towards the big signs bearing the first 4 kanji that you'll see. It's quite high up for a hot day, so be prepared!

The brief walk to the caves themselves was surprisingly pretty. Used to being surrounded by buildings, we were suddenly surrounded by forested mountains reminiscent of Nikko or Arashiyama. I felt excited to find such beauty  existed in Hamamatsu, and downhearted to remember that I would be leaving soon, and had just discovered this area.

Pretty, eh?
There are a few things going on outside the cave entrance, too. There's a small restaurant/cafe area where you can buy soba, stone-shaped chocolate and apparently delicious gelato! Of course there's also a giftshop of cave-themed things, where you can buy anything from small stones to an actual clingfilm-wrapped fossil. Also, for some reason, some toys in a fighting pose:

Who knows why? 

So, now I'll let you look at pictures of cool cave interior. We paid 650円 to enter, and as we walked towards the entrance, we felt a cool, welcoming gust of delicious cold air beckoning us in. It was great - no humidity, no heat, and all from the natural essence of cave interior. The sights were pretty cool, too.

Pretty funky, eh? We were amazed to re-learn the fact that 1cm of a stalagmite or stalactite takes around 100 years to form. Considering that these were several inches in length, it meant that the cave formations were thousands upon thousands of years old. I felt in awe of such age and history; to stand near, let alone to look at and touch the smooth surface of something that began to form back we were (allegedly) still banging stones together and living in caves... before those famous civilisations of which we have awareness - Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece - began to form... before the earth was created, if you ask some... it's really quite mind-blowing. Then again, the cave is paved with metal, adorned with railings and signs, and the customers protected by plastic drip-catching sheets - which makes me wonder about the authenticity of such a place, and perhaps about the validity of claims about the age of those things. Who knows, I certainly wasn't there to see them starting to form. Still, for those formations to be so old means that they have survived countless earthquakes; that they pre-date Japan as a nation. 

Considering how much of "ancient Japan" has been lost to wars, natural disaster and the hunger for modernisation, perhaps the interior of a cave is one of the places where we can truly see a surviving remnant of history. For a brief time, we can step into a kind of time-warp; a tunnel where, for millennia, very little has happened, moved or changed. Outside those cool walls, the world has developed and changed, grown and evolved and fought and lost in so many ways, while those stalagmites and stalactites just kept on slowly creeping into existence. It's quite beautiful if you stop and think about it; those ancient, slow things that watch our time in the world pass like the blinking of an eye. Doesn't it make you feel so small, and yet show you how magnificently great life, and the world, is? Your ancestors from a thousand years ago could have rubbed the very same slippery cave surface and marvelled and its ancientness; your great-great grandchildren might, too. And, hey, the inside of a cave is a great place to stave off the stifling summer heat for an hour or so. 

If you want to go there, check out the website - http://www.doukutu.co.jp/

1 comment:

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