Into the Dragon’s Belly: The Caves   Leave a comment

The word “cave” conjures up images of many things. Dark black tunnels, gloomy stalactites and  images from bad B movies with silly college teens being chased by monsters. I’ve never been in a cave, and it was quite an experience.

The Ryugashido caves are about an hour away from Hamamatsu by bus. The attraction is at the base of a hill in a residential area. It is quiet, with pristinely clean streets and fields of Mikan trees interspersed through the suburbs. After a short walk over a bridge and up a hill, you can see the words for the site on large Kanji letters on the side of the hill. At the facility, families and couples with cameras stroll about, buying gifts and snacking in the dining hall. What catches my eye is a large green dragon, spouting fake smoke through its nostrils every few minutes. It is at the entrace to the cave.

The first thing I noticed in the Cave was the music. A series of cylindrical speakers are set throughout the entire length of the cave, and the music reminiscient of that from the water level of the supernintendo classic,  Donkey Kong Country. In fact, I felt the game everywhere. Back then I was looking at rendered 3d walls and animation, here it was all real.

The paths down there weren’t narrow, and I didn’t have a sense of claustrophobia. Every few feet had labels with panels with English and Japanese writing explaining the significance of a particular rock formation. There was one that looked like Mount Fuji, an underwater pond called the “God Pool” and many more. What I felt mostly in the cave was a sense of peace.

The quiet music and the moody lighting made me feel like I was in a different time and space. Dripping noises from water crevices added to the effect. The walls were a shape and texture I had never seen. They resembled mud frozen solid. Other signs had historical information and depictions of early attempts to explore the cave, with effigies of men crawling through narrow paths. The path a person takes to the exit is about a thousand feet long, which is a good walk. After about ten minutes, I come to a massive, cavern reaching up at least thirty feet into the air. I take in the majesty of the moment.

There was also a bench in the cave, which I found quite exciting. There I was, about fifty or more feet underground, sitting on a blue bench. A few more meters took me to an underground water fall. Green water roared in a small pool down a walkway as the water streamed from above. Soon, I came to the end of the journey, exiting into a store filled with artifacts from the cave itself. It was a bizarre transition, from the unnatural beauty of the cave, to the cold white presence of man-made architecture. Regardless, it was an experience. A first for me, among many firsts in Japan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: