Akiyoshidai & Akiyoshido Cave
Akiyoshidai is located in the mid-western part of Yamaguchi Prefecture. The tourist attraction consists of Akiyoshidai Plateau and Akiyoshi Cave. It is designated as a Quasi National Park and also Special Natural Monument.
Akiyoshidai is a karst plateau. Karst is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. So Akiyoshidai is a typical karst. It lasts 16 km toward the northeast and 6 km toward the northwest. The total area is 93 km2. The maximum thickness of the limestone is over 1,000 meters in the eastern part. Koto River separates the plateau into two parts and the eastern part is the main Akiyoshidai. The limestone is made from coral which are formed on the top of the underwater volcanos about 350,000,000 years ago.
It is very comfortable to walk in the plateau dotted with limestones. The ground is coved with grasses, not trees. So you can overlook a long distance. But it is better to bring on-line map because everywhere looks alike. The reason why there are no trees is because they burn the hill in every February. It started long time ago to grow vegetables in the doline which is a ball-shaped depression made by the dissolved limestone. And also grasses were used for the domestic animals. But now, they keep burning the hill to maintain the beautiful scenery for the tourists.
100 to 200 meters under the Akiyoshidai Plateau lies Akiyoshido Cave. It is one of the biggest caves in Japan. The total length is 10,700 meters and about 1,000 meters are open to the public. There is an underground river along the trail. There are many scenic spots along the route. You will get a map at the reception. The followings are some wonderful photo spots in the cave.
Entrance: Entrance of the cave is amazing. It is a gap of the limestone with the height of 20 meters. The water is running out from the gap. You will cross a bridge to get into the cave. This circumstance will give you an adventurous spirit.
Hyakumaizara: Hyakumaizara means one hundred plates. Small water pools are continuing like steps or you can say it is a terrace rice field. It was made by the water flow for millions of years.
Donai Fuji: There is a big limestone called Donai Fuji as it looks like a Mt. Fuji. Donai means “In the cave”. The water drops have piled up and made this big object. The height is about 5 meters. It mast have taken unimaginable amount of time!
Chimachida: It is another series of water pools like Hyakumaizara. Chimachida means one thousand plots of rice field. Actually there are not one thousand, but it means a lot. It seems like a scenery of Japan’s rural area.
Senjojiki: It is one of the biggest spaces created in the cave in Japan. 80 meters wide, 175 meters long and 35 meters high.
Kasazukushi: Kasazukushi means a lot of umbrellas. There are many stalactite sticks hanging down from the ceiling which look like umbrellas. You find them at the beginning of Senjojiki.
Koganebashira: Koganebashira means golden pillar. Around the central thick pillar, there are thousands of thin pillars which make intricate patterns. This 15 meter-high object has a tremendous impact.
Kuragenotakinobori: Kuragenotakinobori means jelly fishes are climbing the waterfall. Stalactites made by the water drops really look like jelly fishes flying in the air. You may feel the great power of the nature.
The temperature inside the cave is stable. It is about 17 degrees Celsius all the year round. And the moisture level is 95%. In the middle of the trail, there is an elevator to go up to the Akiyoshida Plateau, so you don’t have to come back to the entrance to visit the limestone plateau. If you walk up 5 minutes from the upper elevator station, there is an observation building from which you can see the magnificent view of the plateau.
Kawarasoba is an unique soba or buckwheat noodle, specialty of Yamaguchi. Kawara means rooftile one the roof. After they put the noodle on the rooftile, they put the fire under the tile and grill it. Very interesting way to eat soba.
Access: From Shi-Yamaguchi Station (Shinkansen): Take Chugoku JR Bus to Akiyoshido. It takes about 40 minutes.
Entrance (Akiyoshido Cave): 1,300 yen for adult / 1,050 yen for junior high school student / 700 yen for elementary school student
Hours: From March to November: 8:30 to 18:30 (last entry 17:30) / From December to February: 8:30 to 17:30 (last entry 16:30)