Jun
12
2015

Akiyoshido: Japan’s Most Impressive Limestone Cave

Japan has some really impressive limestone caves.
The largest one is called “Akiyoshido” (Akiyoshi Cave) and can be found in Yamaguchi Prefecture. But it’s not the cave alone that’s breathtaking. Read on to find out why you shouldn’t miss this sightseeing spot in Japan!~

cute star smilie Visited: February 2012 cute star smilie

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Akiyoshido (Akiyoshi Cave) in Yamaguchi

Akiyoshido (秋芳洞) is Japan’s most spacious limestone cave. It’s located in Mine City, Yamaguchi Prefecture (map) of the Chugoku region. Together with Akiyoshidai (Akiyoshi Plateau) it forms the Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park (秋吉台国定公園).

 

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Entrance of the cave at the cave’s lowest point.

Access to Akiyoshido

To get to the Quasi-National Park you can take a bus either from Yamaguchi Station or Shin-Yamaguchi Station. The latter is where the Shinkansen stops.

Get off at the “Akiyoshido Bus Center” (秋芳洞バスセンター). From there it’s a 10-mins walk to the entrance of the cave. Here’s the bus timetable and fares.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Beneath the Akiyoshi Plateau you’ll find many “limestone caverns”, but the biggest one is the Akiyoshi Cave. It’s known as the largest cave in the Orient.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

The cave is about 9 km long, only 1 km is accessible to the public.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

It’s not only said to be the largest, but also the most beautiful cave in the Orient.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Throughout the year it keeps a constant temperature of about 17°C, so dress accordingly.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

The cave received its name from Emperor Hirohito who visited in 1926.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

In 1952 it became a designated Special Natural Monument.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

There are several spectacular sights you can enjoy like this “Cave Mt. Fuji”.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

They gave the formations fitting names. As you can see, there’s also an English translation.

But even without any name, these are extremely impressive!

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Terraces of limestone pools filled with water that look like many tiny rice paddies.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

The cave is also home to 6 different types of cave bats.

Unfortunately I didn’t see any. I was luckier in smaller caves in Japan, but you’re also more likely to run into creepy things such as geji-geji in smaller caves. No, thanks!

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

At most points the cave is well-lit, but you still should bring a tripod!

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

After the roughly 1 km walk through the cave (which will take you about 30 mins), you can use either an elevator to get up to the plateau or the “Kurotani exit”.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

The tunnel leading out has various, huge illustrations of Ghibli-like landscape pictures of the plateau that awaits you above the cave. So, take your time and have a closer look at them.

 

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Akiyoshidai (Akiyoshi Plateau)

Welcome, up there! Let’s breathe some fresh air!

Like I promised it’s not the cave alone, there’s something even more impressive above the cave known as the “Akiyoshi Plateau” (秋吉台).

It’s a plateau with the highest concentration of karst formations in Japan, stretching on an area of 130 km², including over 400(!) limestone caves. Akiyoshido which I just introduced is by far the biggest of them.

 

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

About 300 million years ago the plateau used to be a coral reef.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

There are several walking trails that let you explore the area.

But if you have a car, you can also just pass by the main road and get a good view onto the karst formations.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

The landscape changes drastically with every season.

I went in February and as you can see it was somewhat yellow- / brown-ish.

In winter it sometimes snows, so the landscape is white.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

In spring and summer a fresh green will welcome you.

And in autumn it’s almost reddish.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

You can see a few different pictures of each season here.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

If you have some time, there are some other, smaller caves you could also explore such as “Taishodo” or “Kagekiyodo“.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Lovely manhole cover featuring Akiyoshidai’s pretty landscape.

There are many other sights in Yamaguchi prefecture worth checking out, so you might want to spend more than just a day trip there.

If you’re in a hurry, you could just stop by in Yamaguchi on your way from Fukuoka to Hiroshima or Osaka (or vice versa) as there’s a Shinkansen stop (“Shin-Yamaguchi”) along the way.

 

Please note that Akiyoshi Plateau is open 24/7 and free of charge. The following is only valid for Akiyoshi Cave:

T O U R I S T    I N F O R M A T I O N
Opening Hours: 8:30-16:30
Holidays: none
Entrance fee: 1200 yen (adults); 600 yen (kids); 950 yen (high school students)
Time required: 40-60 mins
TEL: (+81)0837-62-0304
Website: http://english.karusuto.com/
Access: Take a train to JR Yamaguchi or Shin-Yamaguchi Station and from there a bus to Akiyoshido Bus Center. From there it’s a 10 mins walk to the cave.

*Please Note: Prices as well as opening hours / holidays are subject to change. Please make sure to follow the provided link to the official website to check out the latest updates.

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