For an outing with your family that is not too far from Yokota, head for Chichibu-Tama National Park and Nippara Caverns. It is a great place to take school-aged children. Also great for families with babies and kids 4 and […]
For an outing with your family that is not too far from Yokota, head for Chichibu-Tama National Park and Nippara Caverns. It is a great place to take school-aged children. Also great for families with babies and kids 4 and up who can walk and do a lot of stairs. A tad more challenging with a toddler but still a lot of fun especially if you have a strong dad with you who doesn’t mind carrying the toddler up the steep stairs.
Wear shoes with tread, as the pathways are always wet. The temperature is a constant 52 degrees, but short sleeves are fine to wear. Bring a jacket with a hood and you should be fine. Cold Water is dripping down hence the hood. Definitely hat or hood for little kids who don’t like cold water on their heads. There is not much space for big hats so a hood is better. You can wear long pants but if you are walking the whole time you will warm up. Kids should probably wear long pants too. My warm blooded husband was happy wearing shorts and a tee as you can see in the picture.
The caverns are well lit, but nothing like the commercialized ones in the United States. There are steep stairs to various sections, but they are well protected with handrails and wire netting. Has a bunch of spots to stop and look around which is very recharging. There’s a little area right by the entrance of the cave where you can sit by the water and have lunch and also covered benches upstairs by the bathroom.
Bring little easy snacks for the kids to keep them happy as it is 45 min adventure and the echo makes it extra loud when they cry compared to the Japanese people who talk to each other in a whisper.
However, this is much more spartan than caves you may have gone to in the States. There are no tour guides, no “displays”, and there are even a few unexplored places with no lights if you’re adventurous enough and willing to climb. When you get down into the bowels of the cave it opens up into a monstrous cavern with a ceiling that is over 10 meters high. There is also an offshoot from the main “path” were you can climb a dozen flights of stairs in what we were calling a “mountain” inside the cave.
The Nippara Shonyu-Do is about 800 meters deep, with about 300 meters open to visitors. It consists of eight caves divided into two sections. The old caves, “Kyu-do,” were used as a training site for “yamabushi” or itinerant Buddhist monks at the Issekizan Shrine Temple for 1,200 years before the cavern was opened to sightseers. Visitors to the Kyu-do first purify themselves with water at the nearby waterfall and then offer coins to the guardian god enshrined in the cave. The new caves, “Shin-do,” were discovered in 1963 and have much finer stalactites and stalagmites than the “Kyu-Do.” Scientists estimate the caves were formed 5-7 million years ago.
Entrance fees for the caves are ¥600 per adult; ¥400/middle school student; and ¥250/elementary school student and younger. It takes about an hour to drive there and another hour and a half to explore the caves. There is free parking not many spots available so go early. They also have toilet, a little restaurant, a shrine and lots of nature. It’s a great day trip. Also go with a small car and a really good driver the way up is one way. Perfect for a motorcycle ride per my husband’s words.
After you exit the cave, turn right past the parking lots and explore the area a bit. A gigantic wall of lime rocks, named “Bonteniwa” towers over the stream and along the road. There’s a waterfall about a three-minute walk up the road.
NEARBY RESTAURANT: Shokusai Kitchen Mayfly
Nice little river side restaurant that is very relaxing. It is 15 minutes away from Nippara Limestone Caves. They serve things such as pizza, curry, pasta and salad. You can also go trout fishing for about 600 yen which adds a bit of excitement to the day. All in all a great place to stop for lunch. The restaurant also has some free parking spots. ~Kalina Bojkova, August 2019.
The Tokyo Trout Country website has more information on fishing at Lake Okutama and dining at Kitchen Mayfly.