Nippara Limestone Cave: Spelunking in Tokyo

Nippara Limestone Cave the Biggest in Tokyo

Located in the sleepy village of Nippara on Tokyo’s outskirts finds Nippara Cave one of the best karst limestone caves in Japan. I previously visited the caves a few years back though was keen to return on a quiet weekday morning to capture in inner spelunking caverns minus the crowds. The cave extends over some 1,270 metres of which 800 metres is accessible to the public and takes around 40 minutes to fully explore.

Formed during the Palaeozoic Era about 250 million years ago, the cave has been a sanctuary for religious pilgrimage since the Edo period. In and around the cave are several Buddhist Kannon with scattered offerings of one yen coins artfully nestled into the limestone walls. A newer section was discovered in 1962 by some university students which contains a numerous stalactites and stalagmites, though difficult to photograph owing to the wire-mesh fencing. The cave’s main chamber is quite impressive though the jury is out on whether the coloured LED lighting adds to its grandeur. The cave maintains a constant 11ºC making it the perfect place to head to during the summer.

Whilst the cave can be accessed by car the road is preciously narrow so a better bet is taking one of the five daily buses which depart from Okutama Station.

  Access: take a 33 minute bus ride from Okutama Station (bus stop 1) and get off at the Nippara Shonudo bus stop (500 yen) a 5 minute walk. Weekend buses terminate at the Higashi Nippara bus stop a 25 minute walk. Entry fee: Adults 700 yen / children 400 yen.