Hoshimata, Tsumagoi, Agatsuma District, 〒377-1611 Gunma.
Manza Onsen Kumashiro Cave, Hoshimata, Tsumagoi, Agatsuma District, 〒377-1611 Gunma.
Tourism and Commerce Division, 710-136 Kanbara, Tsumagoi Village, Agatsuma District, Gunma 377-1524, Tel: +81-279-82-1293, Fax: +81-279-97-3720.
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熊四郎洞窟 (Manza Kumashiro Cave) is a small shelter or abri with a shinto shrine named Inatsunamiya Shrine. It is not very spectacular, but the location in a single rock and the red Torii makes it quite photogenic, it has some instagram fame. It is not an archaeological site, only a few meager shards of pottery were found. Easily reached in a 15 minutes walk from the Manza Onsen, it is located along a trail which shows several geological sights like a rockfall area and limestone deposits of the hot spring. The river has a pH of only 3 which is acidic. The water is extremely clear because it is not suitable for any plants like algae or bacteria.
That's probably the most spectacular thing with this cave, it is composed of coarse-grained quartz. It is very unlikely that a cave is ever found in this kind of rock. It was most likely formed by the hot spring, the acidic water demineralized the rock and thus made erosion possible. We actually have no class to classify this really strange kind of cave, so we classified it as an erosional cave.
In the old days, when Manza Onsen was still unknown to the public, only hunters in search of deer and bears sometimes ventured into this remote area.
There was no accommodation to stay the night, so they relied on the natural caves for spending the night.
A hunter from Higamata came here frequently, with two dogs, one named Bear and named White.
While the dogs were chasing their prey, the sun was setting in the west and the night was drawing in.
The hunter decided to stay in this rock cave, as he often did.
Suddenly the two dogs started barking. The hunter tried to scold them, but they kept barking for a long time. The hunter was unable to sleep and in a fit of anger, he pulled out his mountain sword and cut off their heads.
The two heads flew up into the sky, and so the hunter looked in that direction and saw the snake aiming at the hunter from above. He was surprised but hit down on the neck of the serpent and the serpent died. The hunter now deeply regretted the loyal death of the two dogs that had saved him.
The hunter wanted to pass on the names of the two dogs which had served for many years to future generations. To at least comfort their spirits, so he began to call this rock cave Kumashiro Rock Cave. Kuma (熊) is the Japanese word for bear and shiro a version of white, so Kumashiro is actually a combination of the two names.