Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Niimi City and the Amazing Limestone Caves

Okayama Prefecture in the western part of Japan’s main island is definitely not known for limestone caves. However, if you drop by Niimi City (新見市), you will encounter a few of the most fascinating limestone caves you will ever see! During summer, there is a relaxing marsh for you to trek on and even a spot for you to be surrounded by hundreds of golden fireflies (*’▽’).

For more details on the attractions in Niimi City, please refer to the below!

Niimi Museum of Art (新見美術館)

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

The Niimi Museum of Art was renovated from an old traditional residence. It might seem small compared to other museums, but its interior space is well utilized, boasting more than 1,200 pieces of masterpieces in its collection. Many artworks – Japanese or Western are on display (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Interesting seasonal exhibitions are also one of the main reasons people from other parts of Japan are willing to pay the museum a visit!

Its cafe on a small hill offers a great view of Niimi’s city landscape. The cafe also faces a nice little Japanese garden that is extra gorgeous in autumn!

Tip: Check out THIS PAGE (in Japanese) to see whether a discount coupon is available when visiting the museum.

Niimi Museum of Art’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm daily except Mondays.
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm.
  • For the days the museum is closed, please refer to the calendar at the end of their home page HERE. The days that are marked in red are the days that the museum is closed.
    • You will need to scroll down the page.
  • The admission fees are
    • 900 yen for adults
    • 500 yen for university students
    • 300 yen for high school students
    • 200 yen for elementary school students
  • The museum is just a 5-minute walk from JR Niimi Station (新見駅).

Ikura Gorge (井倉峡) and Ikuradō Cave (井倉洞)

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

Ikura Gorge or Ikurakyō in Japan is where you feel mother nature’s dynamic power. This magnificent gorge runs for up to 8 km. The banks of the Takahashi River (高梁川) are as tall as 250 meters and were originally just a karst terrain. The karst terrain that is called Atetsudai (阿哲台) was eroded by the Takahashi River (高梁川) over hundreds of thousands of years to form the landscape that we see today.

The only letdown with the Ikura Gorge is that it isn’t a gorge for us to trek along…

But instead, we have the limestone cave “Ikuradō” that stretches as far as 1,200 meters from the entrance. And one of the fascinating things about this cave is that its entrance is on the wall of a cliff with a height of 240 meters!

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

To find out more about this Cave, please refer to our Ikuradō Cave article (=゚ω゚)ノ. You will also find access information to the Ikura Gorge there!

Kinugake Falls (絹掛の滝)

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

If you are driving to Ikura Gorge, briefly stop to admire this elegant waterfall! If you are coming by JR train, you can also see this gorgeous waterfall from the window (*´ω`).

As the waterfall looks like a piece of silk clothing hanging off the cliff, it is named Kinugake. The waterfall is actually a three-tiered waterfall. The bottom tier has a height of more than 50 meters, with the second tier of 12 meters, both visible from the waterfall’s monument.

The top tier, called “Oku-no-In (奥の院)” with a height of 28 meters, is probably the best part of the waterfall because of the mist created when the water splashes from the top!

The Oku-no-In is sadly invisible if you don’t hike up the cliff, so we won’t recommend it if you aren’t experienced or don’t have the proper equipment (;´・ω・).

On a brighter note, there is a small temple inside a cave just next to the waterfall. Inside this temple, you can find a stone statue of Acala. Following the promenade to the cave will give you a close-up view of Kinugake Falls!

You will also find a cute Koi fish (carp) climbing up the waterfall’s basin (^_-)-☆.

Tip: There is a free car park just in front of the waterfall and a few diners on one side of the car park (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Autumn Foliage Season at Kinugake Falls

The color of the foliage usually starts to change in late October. The color peaks around mid-November on average.

How to Get to Kinugake Falls

If you aren’t driving, you can catch a taxi from JR Ikura Station (井倉駅). It will be a 10-minute drive.

Rashōmon Gate (羅生門)

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

For those who don’t find the Ikuradō Cave interesting enough, how about a collapsed limestone cave you can trek through?

It will be a journey to experience both the coolness inside the limestone cave and the scenic mountain views with various moss types found up in the chilly north!

Rashōmon is actually the name given to the area where four gigantic natural arch gates are spread across 100 meters. The gates are connected with each other because, in ancient times, the area was actually a limestone cave! The gates are the remains of the cave after it collapsed (=゚ω゚)ノ.

The gates made of limestone are as tall as 40 meters. Cold and humid air is blown out from the holes here and there on the ground. This air creates the perfect environment for plants and moss that are common in high-altitude areas!

From Rashōmon’s Car Park

In early July, the car park promenade is lit at night with fireflies (*´ω`).

If you are driving, the car park close to Rashōmon is well-maintained and free of charge. A public toilet is also available that is cleaned regularly by the local kids!

There are large direction signboards with “羅生門” written, which you can follow from the car park. One thing to note is that you are not trekking horizontally. From the car park, you should mainly be trekking downwards. Otherwise, you won’t be the first person who followed the signboards to eventually emerge from the forest, wondering where the gates are as you stare at the cars driving through the highway in front of you (´▽`*).

Important: The promenade is poorly maintained and can be quite slippery, with moss growing on top of the wooden logs and wooden board. Make sure you wear appropriate footwear (sneakers at the minimum).

The Gates in Rashōmon

Around 10 minutes from the car park, you should see Rashōmon’s first gate.

Unlike typical dark limestone caves, you will be walking under the sun in the limestone cave here at Rashōmon!

The fourth gate of Rashōmon is located beyond the observation deck. If it is closed to the public when you visit it, it is either because it is too dangerous or the Niimi city is trying to protect the rare plants around the gate (=゚ω゚)ノ.

You might have trouble finding the third gate of Rashōmon. It is because the passageway is between the first and second gates. When that passage becomes inaccessible due to natural events, this is when it remains a secret spot to you.

How to Get to Rashōmon Gate

From JR Niimi Station (新見駅) or JR Ikura Station (井倉駅), take bus services operated by Bihoku Bus bound for Makidō Cave (満奇洞) and get off at Rashōmon Iriguchi (羅生門入口).

  • From the bus stop to the Rashōmon’s promenade, it will be a 20-minute walk.
  • There are not very many bus services each day. Please refer to the timetable HERE to plan ahead (please click on the “備北バス時刻表” on the menu on the left-hand side).
  • They currently don’t have an English timetable, so please use the Japanese characters to read it.
  • Also, as Rashōmon Iriguchi isn’t the main stop, it isn’t listed on the timetable. The stop is in between the Kusama stop (草間) and the Tsuchibashi stop (土橋), so you can interpolate the arrival time of these two stops to derive an estimate.
  • The timetable for weekdays going to Rashōmon Gate is the fourth timetable with the fifth timetable heading back to JR Niimi Station.
  • For the timetable for Sundays, please refer to the first and the second timetable under “日曜運行” on the same page.
  • For the timetable for Saturdays and public holidays, please refer to the first and the second timetable under “土曜日。祝日運行” on the same page.

Makidō Cave (満奇洞)

Makidō Cave is not your usual limestone cave. Apart from the standard LED lighting, it also has two red bridges you will typically see only in Japanese gardens!

To our surprise, the red bridges blend in very well with the surrounding stalactites, and the photos you take with them will definitely be the best photos you will ever have in a limestone cave (*´ω`).

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

To find out more information about the cave, please refer to our Makidō Cave article (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Koigakubo Marsh (鯉が窪湿原)

Koigakubo Marsh is the representative marsh in the western part of Japan’s main island. Located at an altitude of 540 meters, the forest and marsh surrounding the Koigakubo Pond (鯉が窪池) have quite a few phytogeographically valuable plants, such as Silene Kiusiana.

The marsh also has many forests, aquatic animals, and precious insects such as false ringlets! Therefore, the Koigakubo Marsh was designated as Japan’s National Monument and is one of the Top 100 Hidden Scenic Spots in Japan.

If you stroll around the pond via the surrounding promenade, keep in mind that everything in this marsh is protected. Please try not to disturb the insects and animals you come across during your 60 minutes walk (^_-)-☆.

With so many plants growing naturally in the Koigakubo Marsh, the marsh is like a treasure trove of flowers from early May to October. The cute yellow Marsh Marigold starts to bloom, the pink Silene Kiusianain summer, and the small white chrysanthemum will always await your visit!

How to Get to Koigakubo Marsh

From JR Yagami Station (矢神駅), it is a 10-minute drive or a 60-minute walk.

Roadside Station Koigakubo (道の駅 鯉が窪)

As you might have seen in the Koigakubo Marsh Promotion YouTube Video, the Roadside Station Koigakubo is a great place to stop by after you have your fill of the relaxing atmosphere at the Koigakubo Marsh.

Not only are there restaurants that serve light meals, but there is also a bakery that sells bread made from rice flour. This composition of 80% rice flour and 20% wheat flour makes the bread chewier than your normal bread at home!

If you have five people in your group, you can also sign up for their handmade bread workshop by calling +81-867-94-2205. The workshop takes around 3 hours and costs 1,200 yen. And you can bring home 6 breads.

On the last Saturday of each month, from 12 to 2 pm, you can even make your own pizza using this rice flour dough (*’▽’).

If you would like to participate in the pizza-making activity, call them at +81-90-6843-3606 a week before the event date. The cost of the activity is 1,000 yen. If you need a takeaway box, it will be an extra 100 yen.

You can refer to their website HERE to check out when the next activity will be held. As the website is in Japanese, you can translate it to English by Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar. If you need assistance reading it, you can CONTACT US, and we will get back to you.

Remember to bring an apron if you have booked to participate in a workshop.

Tip: We haven’t been able to confirm if there are any vegetarian options in the restaurants at the Roadside Station Koigakubo. You can always refer to our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarian article to make sure what you order is meat and seafood free!

Roadside Station Koigakubo’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • From JR Yagami Station (矢神駅), it is a 10-minute drive or a 60-minute walk.
  • The roadside station is open every day from March to November and closes on Thursdays from December to February.
  • The rice bread bakery Kome Kōbō (こめ工房) is open from 9 am to 4 pm except for Thursdays.
  • Shops and fresh products markets are open from 9 am to 6 pm.
  • The restaurant is open from 11 am to 2 pm and 6 pm to 9 pm.
    • Between December and mid-February, the restaurant is closed.

Yumesuki Park (夢すき公園)

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

This is just a spot for those to stop by briefly for some photos with the gigantic water wheels.

There are a total of 3 waterwheels. Together they are called the Oyakomago (親子孫) Waterwheels to characterize each as a parent, a child, or a grandchild.

With a diameter of 13.6 meters, the parent Oyakomago Waterwheel in Yumesuki Park is currently the biggest Oyakomago Waterwheel in Japan. The other two waterwheels are 6 meters and 4.5 meters in diameter.

Until the mid-Showa Period (1926 – 1989), waterwheels were a powerful piece of equipment for processing paddy into marketable rice.

To get to Yumesuki Park, follow THIS LINK to Google Map.

Shingo Taigo Taue (神郷太鼓田植え)

From 10 am to 1:30 pm on a Sunday in late May, the Shingo Taigo Taue is held. Together with the sound of the Taiko Drums, the rice seedlings are planted in the rice field!

Temporary stalls selling local specialties will be around for those who enjoy shopping (^_-)-☆.

This event is held just at the rice fields opposite Yumesuki Park.

Tennō Hachiman Shrine (天王八幡神社)

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

If you visit Okayama with a car in early July (especially the ten days around the 10th of July), make sure you head to the Tennō Hachiman Shrine at night.

Here you will need the Golden Fireflies flying in the dark forest!

Important: Please turn off the flashlight while admiring the fireflies and ensure the flashlight on your camera is turned off when you take photos. Of course, no smoking is allowed in the area.

How to Get to Tennō Hachiman Shrine

It is a 40-minute drive from JR Niimi Station (新見駅).

Discover All the Awesome Attractions in Maniwa City nearby

Click the photo to find out how to get to this gorgeous spot!

Maniwa City, next to Niimi City, is one of the best places to be during the cherry blossom seasons. Spots such as the cherry blossom tunnel and a gigantic cherry tree that is a thousand years old up on a hill are the places you won’t want to miss out on when you visit Japan when the flowers are blooming. There are even a few places where you can enjoy the cherry blossoms and the fall foliage at the same time (*’▽’).

For more information, check out our Maniwa City article!

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