During your time at Kinosaki Onsen, how about a side trip to Genbudō Park (玄武洞公園), which has some amazing landscapes created by volcanic activity 1.6 million years ago? Although the park is called Genbudō, which means Genbu Cave, it actually has five basalt caves, each named after one of the four Chinese mythological divine beasts.
When the area was first discovered in the Edo Period (1603 – 1867), there weren’t any caves around. It was just a massive basalt stone area. The caves were actually artificially created when the stones were sourced for building materials and other uses.
The most astonishing fact about the caves here is that if you hold your compass close to the basalt, the NS pole will be reversed Σ(ﾟДﾟ), due to reverse magnetism.
That angry-looking mascot – Basalt Stone Gan-san (玄武岩の玄さん), actually has a gentle personality, so don’t be afraid to get a selfie with him!
Table of Contents
- How to Get to Genbudō Park
- From Genbudō Museum to Genbudō Cave
- Genbudō Cave’s Opening Hours and Admission Fee
- About Genbudō Park Guided Tour
- Genbudō Cave (玄武洞)
- Seiryūdō Cave (青龍洞)
- Byakkodō Cave (白虎洞)
- Minami-suzakudō Cave and Kita-suzakudō Cave (南朱雀洞 北朱雀洞)
- Genbudō Museum (玄武洞ミュージアム)
How to Get to Genbudō Park
If you are taking public transportation, first get to JR Genbudō Station (玄武洞駅). From the station, cross the highway to get to the boat terminal (渡し船乗り場).
For the staff at Genbudō Museum (玄武洞ミュージアム) to pick you up, you have to call +81-796-23-3821 to make a booking. You can call them when you change trains at JR Kinosaki Onsen Station (城崎温泉駅) or JR Toyooka Station (豊岡駅). There should be staff who can speak English, but if you have issues with communication, you can always kindly ask the station staff to make the phone call for you.
If you plan to drive, it takes around 10 minutes to get there through Kinosakio Bridge (城崎大橋) from Kinosaki Onsen. You can, of course, cycle your way there.
Tip: If you choose to drive or cycle to Genbudō Park, you can still take the sightseeing boat (遊覧船) that tours the Maruyama River (円山川) flowing in front of Genbudō Museum. Set tickets, including the museum’s admission, baggage storage, and the boat fare, are available.
From Genbudō Museum to Genbudō Cave
The boat will take you to the back of the museum. If you are taking the same ferry back, we recommend leaving the museum at the end of your visit to the area and heading to Genbudō Park first.
Crossing the highway and climbing up the staircases, you will arrive at Genbudō Park Information Center (玄武洞公園案内所), where you can take a rest. If you have booked a guided tour, it is where you meet your guide as well.
Genbudō Cave’s Opening Hours and Admission Fee
- Genbudō Cave is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
- The last admission is at 4:30 pm.
- The admission fee is
- 500 yen for adults
- 300 yen for students
About Genbudō Park Guided Tour
We strongly recommend booking a guided tour to enjoy your time at Genbudō Park. Not only will you be learning so much specialized knowledge of earth science about Genbudō Cave, but you will also be introduced to things you won’t notice if you just stroll around the park.
The English-guided tour costs 1,000 yen per person. The fee includes the guided tour to all five caves, but please be aware that from late September 2021, maintenance work will take place in the park, which means you might not be able to see Seiryū Cave.
Please book 7 to 10 days in advance by emailing NPO Genbudō Guide Club (NPO玄武洞ガイドクラブ) at [email protected].
Genbudō Cave (玄武洞)
The cave in front of the information center is the Genbudō Cave. It is the first place in the world where the Geomagnetic reversal phenomenon was discovered in 1926 by a professor at Kyoto University, Motonori Matuyama (松山 基範).
Genbudō cave is the first spot in the park where basalt was discovered in the mid-Edo period. Because the hexagonal shape of the section of basalt resembles the pattern on a turtle shell and snake scale, the cave was named Genbu, a Chinese mythological divine beast with a snake shape combined with a tortoise.
The cave actually looks quite different from how it looked before the big earthquake in 1925. From the old photo in front of the cave, it seemed to be a lot deeper, with multiple entrances previously.
Along the promenade in the park, many basalts taken from the cave formed part of the pavement. If you look closely, most stones have a radial pattern from the center to the outside. It is said that it is formed when lava cools and hardens.
Seiryūdō Cave (青龍洞)
Around a 2 to 3-minute walk away south of Genbudō Cave, there is the magnificent Seiryūdō Cave.
The columnar joint of the basalt reflecting on the small pond in front of it resembles a dragon rising into the sky. That is why it was named Seiryūdō Cave, or Azure Dragon Cave.
In Japanese, the same verb is used to describe failing and falling. Because some basalt stones here look like they are almost falling but aren’t, it has become a popular spot for examinees to pray to pass their exams.
Also, if you manage to throw a coin onto the stone pagoda in the pond, it is said your wishes will come true (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Close to Seiryūdō Cave, there is a Genbudō Tourist Center (玄武洞観光センター) where you can buy souvenirs and take light meals (there may not be vegetarian options). From the observatory of the center, you will get a wide view of Tooyaka Basin (豊岡盆地), which used to be under the sea. If you are lucky, you might even spot a few storks looking for food in the rice paddy!
Byakkodō Cave (白虎洞)
Heading back to Genbudō Cave, a set of staircases leads to the Byakkodō Cave.
Unlike the other caves in the area, all columnar joints here are sideways in a strip shape from bottom to top. As it reminds the Japanese of the pattern on the back of the Chinese mythological divine beast – the White Tiger, which was named Byakko.
This cave is also the only cave in the park where you can see the columnar joints up close and where you might find some heart-shaped cross-section basalts. If you find one of those, you will be blessed with a happy relationship (^_-)-☆.
Minami-suzakudō Cave and Kita-suzakudō Cave (南朱雀洞 北朱雀洞)
The staircases at the left of Byakkodō Cave will lead you to the two Suzaku caves. As parts of the two caves’ columnar joints look like a flying bird, they were named after the Chinese mythological divine beast – Vermilion Bird Suzaku. The pattern at the Minami-suzakudō Cave looks like a bird landing on the ground, whereas, at the Kita-suzakudō Cave, it looks like a bird flying with its wings outspread.
Genbudō Museum (玄武洞ミュージアム)
After exploring Genbudō Park, the Genbudō Museum is a nice spot to finish your trip. In addition to learning more about the caves, there are many gems, strange stones, fossils, minerals, and more collected from all over the world on display.
You can also participate in one of the traditional crafts workshops for a unique souvenir. Just be aware that although there is a restaurant in the museum, there is no complete vegetarian savory option, as even their vegetable pasta is flavored with fish/meat extract.
For more information, refer to the official website HERE.
Tip: If you pay for admission to the museum, they can store your belongings for free.
Genbudō Museum’s Opening Hours and Admission Fee
- Genbudō Museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
- The restaurant serves lunch from 11 am to 3 pm.
- The last order for lunch is taken at 2:50 pm.
- The admission fee is
- 800 yen for junior high school students and above
- 500 yen for elementary school students
- 400 yen for children from the age of 4
Visit Kinosaki Onsen for the Michelin Michelin-Certified Scenery
Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉) is just a few stations away from the park and is one of the most popular destinations in northern Hyōgo Prefecture among tourists both locally and overseas. It won’t be hard to understand the reason at all once you have seen the Michelin two-star rated scenery from Mt. Daishi (大師山) and the other historical and cultural charms of the hot spring resort that has prospered for more than 1,300 years!
And the best thing about the onsen town is that it offers a couple of vegetarian-friendly accommodations and dining options!
For more information about what to do and where to go, please refer to our Kinosaki Onsen article!