秋芳洞

Akiyoshidō - Akiyoshi-do - Akiyoshi Cave


Useful Information

Location: Akiyoshidai, Syuuhou-tyo, Yamaguchi. 40 minute bus ride from Jr Ogori Station.
5 min from Akiyoshidai IC in Ogōri-Hagi Expressway via Mine Higashi JCT in Chūgoku Expressway
Open: Main entrance: MAR to NOV daily 8:30-18:30, last entry 17:30. DEC to FEB daily 8:30-17:30, last entry 16:30.
Elevator entrance: all year daily 8:30-17:30, last entry 16:30.
Kurotani entrance: all year daily 8:30-17:30, last entry 16:30.
[2020]
Fee: Adults JPY 1,300, High School (16-18) JPY 1,300, Middle School (13-15) JPY 1050, Elementary School (0-12) JPY 700.
Groups (20+): Adults JPY 1,100, High School (16-18) JPY 9050, Middle School (13-15) JPY 800, Elementary School (0-12) JPY 550. Reservation required.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave, Paleozoic limestone, coral reef.
Light: electric.
Dimension: L=10,300m, T=17°C
Guided tours: self guided, L=1,000m, D=60min. Audio guide: 日本語 - Japanese English Chinese 한국말 - Korean
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: partly wheelchair accessible from Akiyoshidō Entrance to Hyakumaizara.
Bibliography: George Edward Gauntlett (1909): The Caves of Yamaguchi, The Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal 3 (9) 41-44
H S Torii (1957-59): Kurze Geschichte der Höhlen- und Karstforschung in Japan, [A short history of caves and karst exploration in Japan]. Die Höhle, 8 (4) 104-107; 9 (2) 37-40; 10 (1) 11, 10 (4) 99-102
Kanato Ando (2019); The study of amphipods in rimstone pools of Akiyoshi-do Cave, Japan. Subterranean Biology. 32. 81-94. 10.3897/subtbiol.32.35031.
Address: Akiyoshidō, 3506-2 Akiyoshi, Shūhō-chō, Mine-shi, 754-0511, Tel: +81-837-62-0304.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1354 to end a draught Zen master Ohora Kotobuki performs a ritual, in the floods caused by the 37 days rain a monk dies.
1729 graffiti in the cave show the names Takinoguchi, Hirotaki, and Inagawa.
1904 first written mention in Japanese (Torii 1957-59).
1907 survey by George Edward Gauntlet, an English schoolmaster, who was commissioned by Bunjiro Umehara mining company. He published his results in 1909 in Yorkshire.
1909 cave developed as a show cave by Bunjirō Umehara and opened to the public.
1920 first detailed survey map by the Ministry of Home Affairs Natural Monument Study Team.
1922 designated a National Natural Monument.
1925 electric light installed.
30-MAY-1926 visited by the Crown Prince Hirohito who renamed the cave Akiyoshidō.
01-NOV-1955 Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park established.
1956 elevator into the cave installed.
1960 electric light for the huge halls with mercury lamps.
1960 cave surveyed to a length of 2km.
1963 Kurodani entrance tunnel constructed.
2000 cave surveyed to a length of 8.5km.
2015 Mine Akiyoshidai established as Japanese Geopark.
2016 cave surveyed to a length of 10,300m by the Akiyoshidai Karst Cave Academic Research Team.

Description

photography
River passage in Akiyoshido, 1975. Public Domain.

Akiyoshidō was originally named Takiana (waterfall hole), but was renamed in 1926 by the Crown Prince Hirohito. He visited the cave, when he was still the crown prince. He became the emperor 昭和天皇 (Shōwa-tennō) in the same year in December, when his father died.

The cave system is more than 10 kilometers long and currently the third longest cave of Japan [2020]. Japan is mostly of volcanic origin, and there are only patches of limestone, so there are no really long caves, but the Akiyoshidai karst plateau is quite large (~130km²) and full of caves. The limestone is important for many things in the modern world, so there are numerous limestone quarries in the area.

Akiyoshidō has three entrances. The Akiyoshidō Entrance is the natural entrance which follows the cave river into the resurgence. To allow visitors to enter here, a wooden walkway was constructed at the side wall, several meters above the river. The trail follows the main passage along the cave river, first it is almost level but later the trail starts to ascend. At some point the fossil Kurotani passage branches off to the left. Here is the location of an elevator where visitors are transported to the surface and a viewing platform. The trail now follows the Kurotani passage, which ends at the Kurotani Entrance. This entrance is an artificial tunnel which is called 300 Million-Year Time Tunnel, a hint at the age of the limestone.

The cave is visited self guided, but there are audio guides available in various languages. A typical round trip is, to start at the Akiyoshidō entrance, go to the elevator, visit the viewing platform, then go back down and continue to the Kurotani entrance. Then walk back to the Akiyoshidō entrance. However, as the tour is self guided you can skip any part or start from any of the three entrances. The ticket allows to leave the cave, e.g. for the viewing platform, and re-enter later. Also photography is allowed and on self guided tours there is enough time to take a few exceptional pictures.

The cave river is known for various endemic troglobiont species which were found here. There is even a so-called Animal Lookout for the visitors. But we guess you must be very lucky to see anything, most likely they fled the light and the commotion of the visitors. It is much easier to see one of the 15,000 bats which live in the cave. Six different species have so far been determined.

The largest hall of the cave is named Senjoji and is 175m long, 80m wide and 35m high. Kotogafuchi, the largest lake of the cave, is 60m long, 15m wide and 3m deep.

You can complete the trip with a short walk on the limestone plateau, which is full of typical karren structures. Close to the elevator entrance is the 秋吉台科学博物館 (Akiyoshidai Science Museum). It is dedicated to the karst area, the caves and springs. Also a short trip to the Beppu Benten Pond, a karst spring only 10km from the cave, is recommended. The Mine Akiyoshidai Geopark Center Karstar is a good start for an excursion to this area. The area is a Quasi National Park and a National Geopark, a Ramsar Site and wetland of international importance.

The natural entrance is at the foot of a 50m high cliff. The entrance is 20m high and 8m wide. The tourist route runs parallel to an underground stream, and passes a complex of 500 terraced rimstone pools, large stalagmites, and large columns. Claimed to be the largest and the most splendid cave in Asia.


Text by Tony Oldham (2004). With kind permission.