|Location:||Near Nakatonbetsu village. 112km from Wakkanai, 189km from Asahikawa, 316km from Sapporo. From Asahikawa follow highway 40 "Otoyukofu" north, at Otoineppu turn right on road 275. On road 275 there are two turnoffs to the park marked by a cave logo with stalactites and stalagmites.|
MAY to OCT dail 9-17, last admission 16:30.
1st Cave: L=170m.
3rd Cave: L=65m-
4th Cave: L=15m.
Nakatonbetsu Limestone Cave, 24 Asahidai, Nakatonbetsu-cho, Esashi-gun, 098-5554, Tel: +81-1634-6-1299.
Nakatonbetsu Town Hall, Industry Division, Tourism Town Development Promotion Office, Tel: +81-1634-6-1111.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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|1917||discovered by Umakata, a local woodcutter who took refuge in the cave during a snow storm.|
|1933||seven local youths thought of exploring a cave and discovered a stalactite inside the cave.|
|DEC-1933||designated a Natural Monument by the Minister of Education.|
中頓別鍾乳洞 (Nakatonbetsu Limestone Cave) is located in the Nakatonbetsu Limestone Cave Natural Fureai Park which is rich in nature, plants and wildlife. This is the northernmost karst area of Japan, and with the cold climate and strong winters the caves are rather small and cold inside. The cave is the main sight of the park, but there are three more caves along the 1.6km long trail through the park. At the entrance of the park is a small visitor center which offers literature, souvenirs, a small exhibition, and a guide service (only in Japanese). Quite nice is that park and cave are free, the park is financed by the town.
The Nakatonbetsu Limestone Cave was discovered accidentally by Umakata, a local woodcutter who took refuge in the cave during a snow storm. Together with his horse he spent the night in the shelter of the cave entrance. However, it seems he did not explore the rest of the cave, at least he did not tell about it. The cave was first explored by seven adventurous local youths, who thought of exploring a cave and discovered a stalactite inside the cave. This is considered the actual discovery of the Nakatonbetsu limestone cave.
The cave has a single almost straight passage which is 70m long. After the 20m long spacious entrance hall a narrow passage of the same length follows. Then a second chamber which is only 10m long follows, another short narrow passage and a final chamber which has a different direction. A trail was built through the cave but it ends at the entrance of the last chamber which cannot be entered. The cave has no speleothems but offers fossils in the rock and spectacular erosional forms along the walls. The visitors have to return the way they came in.
The entrances to other caves of the park can be seen along the trail. One of them has a respectable length of 30m and once contained many stalactites. All the caves are closed due to the danger of rockfall. The park also has two strange rock formations which seem to be the result of differential erosion, and a small waterfall.
The caves have formed in the 10Ma old Cenozoic limestone with many shell fragments of scallops and barnacles. The fossil rich limestone is much less resistant to erosion than normal limestone and this is the reason why the caves were formed primarily by erosional processes. Most of the passages follow cracks in the east-west direction, a few have a 45° angle on this direction.
The Limestone Cave Festival is held on the first Sunday of June. Restaurants of the town open food stands at the park and there are various events around the park and in the town. This is also the time of the cherry blossom and the park is normally quite spectacular. During the night the park is illuminated, which is called Cherry Blossom Light Up. For more information you should call the Nakatonbetsu Tourist Association, Tel: +81-1634-7-8510.