The number of people want to travel and experience new things grows by the day. There are now multiple posts online that provide tips for people who wish to travel overseas. How to save money for the trip and other tips and tricks to make the trip worthwhile are all over the Internet. There are so many options when it comes to the places that one can travel to. Depending on one’s liking and expectations, one can either go to Europe or travel to Asia. If Asia is the top option, one would like to recommend going to Japan.
Japan has a lot to offer to locals and tourists alike. Their cities that are highly developed while their countryside offers a lot of spectacular sceneries. If one is looking for natural attractions, among the many choices to choose from are the famous caves located in the Fuji Five Lakes Region.
The Three Popular Caves in the Fuji Five Lake Region
One of the many mountains known all over the world is Mount Fuji located in the land of Japan. Through the years, Mt. Fuji has erupted quite a number of times, which results to lava flows. These lava flows were able to naturally create a number of caves in the Fuji Five Lakes region that surrounds the northern base of Mt. Fuji. There were news reports regarding the development of these caves at the time.
Among the multiple caves created by the lava flows, three of these were developed by the Japanese to boost their tourism. These caves are open to tourists for exploration that does not require the use of special guides or equipment. However, despite the efforts of the people running the operation of these caves, it is still important for visitors to be mindful of their actions as there are some passages that have low ceilings. Furthermore, steep steps can also be expected, which tend to get slippery when wet.
The three caves mentioned are the Bat Cave, the Wind Cave, and the Ice Cave. Open from 9 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, the Bat Cave was named as such due to its previous winter inhabitants. If it is not obvious yet, the Bat Cave used to be the home of some bats during the winter season.
Considered as the most extensive cave out of the three, the Bat Cave is closed from the 1st of December to the 19th of March. Hence, it shall also be closed on February. However, for those who wish to visit on other months such as June, July, August, September, and November, the Bat Cave shall be open. Admission to the Bat Cave is worth 300 yen per head, which is not an expensive price to pay given the experience that one can get. The Bat Cave is almost 350 meter in length and houses several huge chambers and diverging channels that some tourists may want to explore. One thing to take note of while inside the cave is that some of its tunnels have considerably low ceilings.
The second cave is known as the Wind Cave or Fugaku Fugetsu Wind Cave. Generally open from 9 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, visiting hours tend to be shorter during the winter season and longer during the summer season. Unlike the Bat Cave, the Wind Cave has no closing days. Admission to the Wind Cave is 350 yen per head, which is only 50 yen higher than that to the Bat Cave.
The temperature inside this cave stays relatively constant throughout the year at zero degrees Celsius. Hence, it comes as no wonder that the cave was formerly used as a natural storehouse and refrigerator. Currently, there is a number of shelves furnished inside the cave. These shelves are used to contain boxes of acorns as well as silkworm cocoons. Out of all the three caves, the Wind Cave is the most easily walkable cave. Hence, many consider the Wind Cave to be the least exciting out of the three.
Last but certainly not the least is the Ice Cave. Similar to the Wind Cave, the Ice Cave opens at 9 in the morning and closes at 5 in the afternoon though visiting hours may be shorter during the winter season and longer during the summer season. Hence, this cave is not accessible at night. The Ice Cave also has no closing days. Tourists tend to visit both caves when in the area due to their similar schedules. Just like the Wind Cave, admission to the Ice Cave is also only 350 yen.
Regardless of the season, the temperature inside the Ice Cave generally stays below the freezing point. Due to this characteristic, it is not surprising that the cave has been utilized as storage for ice throughout the year since the early 1900s. The passages inside the cave are circular though the walk is not that long. Visitors should be cautious when walking along the passages as some of them come with low ceilings and stairs that tend to be slippery due to the ice contained inside.
Basics and Features of the Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave
Out of the three caves mentioned, probably the most popular is the Ice Cave. Located exactly at 8533 Narusawa-mura, Minami-tsuru-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, the Ice Cave has a zip code of 402-0320. There are many ways to travel to the Ice Cave. The nearest I.C. to the Ice Cave is the Chuo Expressway, Kawaguchiko IC. For people who would be driving their own vehicles, they would have to take the Chuo Expressway via Route 139 Road as the Ice Cave is only 20 minutes away from Kawaguchiko IC. Hence, those who are residing in Tokyo can still go to this cave.
For people riding on a train, the nearest station to the Ice Cave is the Kawaguchiko Station under the Fujikyuko Line. As for those taking the bus, the nearest highway bus stop is Kawaguchiko Station while the nearest regular bus stop is Hyoketsu. For those getting off at Kawaguchiko Station, the next step is to take a bus that is bound for Shimobe-onsen-kyo and alight at the Hyoketsu bus stop. From there, the Ice Cave is only 10 minutes away on foot.
There is parking provided outside the Ice Cave that is free of charge. It has 10 parking spaces for buses and 100 parking spaces for regular cars. There is also a restroom available for people wishing to pee, wash, or touch up. An activities program is available for the perusal of guests. Aside from the program, a forest guide would also accompany the tourists in their experience with nature. One of the nice things about the Ice Cave is that it can still be enjoyed in wet weather. More information can be obtained from the Narusawa Ice Cave Information Center. Their telephone numbers are 0555-85-3089 and 0555-85-2301.
A pit type cave, the Ice Cave is full of natural undulations, which results in an adventure world filled with curiosity. Due to the location of the cave in a manner similar to a ring, several of its features can be seen by the guests by making a single circular loop. Situated in the east entrance leading to the Aokigahara Jukai “sea of trees” forest, the Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave is recognized as one of the several tourist attractions that are available for a visit any time of the year at the Fuji Five Lakes region.
It was more than 1150 years ago that a flank volcano of Mt. Fuji known as Nagaoyama erupted during the 6th year of the Jogan era in 864 A.D. The two-tunnel type cave was created when the red hot lava flow called Aokigahara Maruo from Nagaoyama trailed down in the middle of ancient parasitic volcanoes. The tree-type lava bed is believed to contain the most number of spiracles in the world. In the year 1929, the Ice Cave was appointed as a natural monument by the Ministry of Education of Japan. Soon after, the Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave was introduced as a geological wonder of nature to the world.
Covered with ice all-year round, the average temperature of the ice cave is 3 degrees Celsius though it reaches 0 and below at certain points in time. Drops of water that seep from the ceiling form icicles that many consider as impressive. These icicles grow in size, especially during the month of April. There was a certain point when the icicles grew 3 meters high and 50 centimeters wide. Around 800 meters east of the Wind Cave, the Ice Cave consists of a ring-like pit shape that is 153 meters in length. The pit is around 1.5 meters to 11 meters wide and about 1 meter to 3.6 meters high.
Entering the Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave
There are a lot of things to be seen when entering the Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave. First would be the seed storage remnants. These were utilized in order to preserve seeds as well as silkworm cocoons. Storing them in a cold or refrigerated environment prevents the growth of these cocoons. Furthermore, the cold environment helps preserve the quality of the seeds and encourage budding. Another thing to be seen inside the cave is an old water well that was used prior to water services.
There are also remnants of large trees inside the cave. It is said that these trees grew more than a thousand years ago. These are located inside the lava tunnel. With the ceiling only 91 centimeters high, visitors are able to walk through the tunnel sideways. One other feature of the Ice Cave that visitors can expect to witness is the ice wall. The wall is an imitation of an ice storage unit. It was created by piling up several blocks of ice on one another. This was especially useful back on the days when refrigerators were yet to exist.
Probably the main highlight of going into the Ice Cave is the ice pillars. These ice pillars are made up of water droplets that seeped from the ceiling and froze to form icicles. These are all natural beauties of the world. Truly, it is a spectacular natural work of art. With the lights reflecting on the icicles, these ice pillars may seem like they have a hue. Its beauty is unexplainable and the only way to appreciate it is to actually witness it.
To assist visitors in their entrance to and exit from the cave, there are staircases that visitors can climb on. Instead of climbing too fast, set a slow pace as the steps can get slippery because they are wet. The whole walk from the entrance to the exit can take about 10 minutes or so. Visitors need not be in a hurry; try to fully enjoy the experience while one can.
Other Tips and Cautions When Visiting the Ice Cave
There are various signs and warnings inside the cave. It would be best not to take these cautions lightly. As the temperature inside the cave is very low, wearing a jacket or other pieces of garments to keep one’s body warm is recommended. Due to the low ceilings of the cave, hard hats are provided prior to the entrance to the ice cave. Visitors may duck their heads to avoid hitting the low ceilings.
It is very important to tread lightly as the steps can be quite slippery and they are wet most of the time. There are also handrails that visitors can hold on to just to add that extra precaution. Walking at a slower pace is suggested not only to avoid slipping but also to be able to take lots of pictures.
There are also dangerous sections within the cave where accidents are prone to happen. Always look where one is going to avoid any mishaps while walking along the passages of the ice cave. Do note that there is also black ice inside the cave, coupled with dim lighting and some puddles of muddy water.
After exiting the ice cave, there are shops awaiting visitors outside. There are also hotels and cafes nearby. The prefecture itself also holds festivals on certain months. For tourists visiting both the Ice Cave and the Wind Cave, there is a piece of paper wherein visitors can collect souvenir ink stamps taken from both caves. Once both stamps have been obtained, they can collect a free souvenir by presenting the piece of paper at the gift shop. While it may already be fascinating to look at the photos of the ice cave, experiencing it all and actually witnessing its beauty is another thing altogether.