岩屋山石窟

Iwayayama Cave


Useful Information

Location: Shukunegi, Sado City, Niigata Prefecture 〒952-0612.
From harbour town Ogimachi follow road 45 west, after 2 km turn right, about 200 m after the inn Hananoki in a curve to the left begins a staircase to the cave on the right side of the road. 15 minutes walk uphill.
(37.812470, 138.249210)
Open: no restrictions.
[2022]
Fee: free.
[2022]
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church SpeleologySea Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: Portal: W=8 m, H=6 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Iwayayama Cave, 188 Shukunegi, Sado City, Niigata Prefecture 〒952-0612.
Cultural Property Office Buried Cultural Property Section 825-1, Manoshinmachi, 〒952-0318, Tel: +81-259-55-3990, Fax: +81-259-67-7513.
Sado City World Heritage Promotion Division, Cultural Properties Office, Tel: +81-259-63-3195, Fax: +81-259-63-3197.
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

1809 88 stone Buddha statues built by the mother of Shukunegi's shipping company, Gonbei Ishizuka.
1967 archaeological excavation.
1984 archaeological excavation.
28-MAR-1972 designated a Historic Monument by the prefecture.

Description

岩屋山石窟 (Iwayasan sekkutsu, Iwayayama Cave) is an archaeological site where earthenware from the early Jomon period was excavated. Today the small shelter is transformed into a shinto temple, so it is mainly a Kannon-do, a cave temple. It is also some of the numerous Iwaya Kannon do, we have listed numerous caves with that name. In other words it is thought to be the cave where Kobo Daishi (Kukai) according to legend lived for some time and trained and meditated, creating Buddha statues in his pastime. However, it is one of the less probable candidates. It became nevertheless known as a holy place and over time numerous stone statues were placed in the cave, Makai Buddha, 88 Buddha, and Kannon-do. Today there are ledges cut into the walls with row after row of such sculptures and reliefs placed on them. Eighty-eight Kannons, which are linked to the 88 sacred sites in Shikoku, are lined up in a semicircle around the entrance to the cave. The current appearance was made during the Taisho era, and the 88 Buddha is said to have been made by the masons of Hamochikodomari and Mano Tsubakio in Sado.

The cave is quite popular and very religious visitors wake overnight at the cave and perform the ねまりへんろ (Nemari Henro). They sing Eika and Nembutsu while sitting in the cave, on Sado "sitting" is called "nemaru". This takes place every month on the 1st and 17th.

The small cave is located on a hill behind Shukunegi. It is a sea cave and was created when the land was deeper at see level. Today there is a coastal plain named Kotoura terrace, which is the largest on the Ogi Peninsula. The cave is today located on the hill behind the plain, about 1 km from the coast and about 80 m asl.

It is also called 岩屋洞窟 (Iwayadōkutsu, Iwaya Cave) because there were oyster shells on the walls. Its unclear if those were fossils in the rocks or if they were relics from the time as a sea cave. Also, we are not sure why the oysters explain the name, if there is a special meaning of the name Iwaya in Japanese. However, we know exactly what the stories about the great length means. There are legends that the cave is connected to the 岩谷口洞窟 (Iwayaguchi dōkutsu, Iwayaguchi Cave) in Sotokaifu, a quite similar small sea cave at the opposite end of the island, 52 km to the north. And of course there is the story about a dog from Shukunegi which vanished in the cave and reappeared later in the cave of Iwayaguchi. A fine example of the SmileFar Connection Legend and the SmileMysterious Rediscovery Legend. Such legends sprout all over the world and do not need any real facts as backing. The cave is actually only the small shelter you can see and its length is not unknown. There is no connection and never has been.