Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Yūgendō: The Oldest Limestone Cave in Japan

Yūgendō (幽玄洞) in Ichinoseki is said to be the oldest limestone cave in Japan. The cave was determined to be 50 meters below water 350 million years ago. Thus, in addition to stalagmites, fossils such as trilobites and crinoids can also be seen in the 500-meter-long cave. At the cave’s far end is the emerald-green underground lake, making the cave more magical. Because the cave seems like a mysterious world that doesn’t belong to this world, it was named Yūgendō.

Similar to all limestone caves in the world, the temperature in Yūgendō is around the same throughout the year. At 13 degrees, it is a great spot to escape from the summer heat and winter chill.

What to Expect When Exploring Yūgendō

The most special thing about Yūgendō is a large part of the cave isn’t covered by flowstone. Unlike most limestone caves where stalactites and stalagmites are formed everywhere, most of the stratum from 350 million years ago is exposed. Moreover, minimal lighting in the cave allows guests to experience the limestone cave close to its natural state, making the short tour more adventurous.

The walking course is divided into two along the way. The left side is recommended for those who prefer to walk on a flatter surface. The road on the right side is hilly. From the entrance to the exit, it takes around 30 minutes.

Along the passageway in the cave, there are a few Kannon Bodhisattvas enshrined in the small space in the wall, just enough for the statue. This is because the cave is owned by a temple nearby. Most names given to different parts of the cave are also Buddhism-related. In addition, fossils are hidden in the walls, so look for plexiglass on the wall. It is the easiest way to identify them (^_-)-☆.

While in Japanese, here is Yūgendō’s map.

  • The red dots mark where the fossils are.
  • It is marked pink if the type of fossil was first discovered at Yūgendō.
© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構

Tips:
☛ If unsure, check with the staff for the returning bus’s schedule.
☛ If you find a heart-shaped mark in Yūgendō, you will be blessed with a good life partner. The staff has received a lot of good news from past guests!

Important: Please be careful when exploring and watch your head in narrow passages and places.

Koyasu Kannon (子安観音)

Just a 10 to 15-minute walk from Yūgendō, there is a small temple built against the rocky hill. The main image here is Kannon Bodhisattvas. The stone statue carved a few centuries ago marks a sad history in the area.

In the Edo period, Christianity was forbidden in Japan. If one were found to be a Christian, he would be prosecuted. So, various creative ways were developed to have an object of worship, and one of them was to carve a Kannon statue that resembles Saint Mary. As the Saint Mary bears a Kannon appearance, Christians in the area back then could pray safely.

This is why the Koyasu Kannon here is also known as Maria Kannon (マリア観音). While the Kannon statue enshrined in a small limestone cave is so weathered that you can hardly tell what she originally looked like, it has been worshipped for child-relative matters.

Yūgendō Cave’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • Yūgendō is open from:
    • 8:30 am to 6 pm from April to September
    • 8:30 am to 5 pm in October and November
    • 9 am to 4 pm from December to March
  • The admission fee is
    • 1,100 yen for adults
    • 600 yen for junior high school students
    • 400 yen for elementary school students
  • From JR Geibikei Station (猊鼻渓駅), take Tōban Kōtsū’s (東磐交通) Natsumatsu Line (夏松線) and get off at Yūgendō Cave.

Discover Other Attractions in Ichinoseki

Geibikei-Gorge-Tea-Ceremony-Ichinoseki-Iwate-Japan
Click the photo for more information about Ichinoseki’s attractions!

Of course, Yūgendō Cave isn’t the only recommended spot in Ichinoseki to visit. The city has a wealth of beautiful natural landscapes and is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway from the big city’s hustle and bustle.

So refer to our article on Ichinoseki to further plan your visit!

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