Spelunking... such as it is

Eating breakfast on the train... gasp!
Kiyone Station waiting for our connection
With the plans of my parents coming to visit becoming a reality, and during a time when I don't a lot of holidays from work, I have been searching for fun things to do in Japan that qualify as weekend or day trips. One such place I located was Ikura-do or Ikura cave which is situated in northwestern Okayama. Since Laura wasn't feeling up to a trip, Theo and I decided it would be a fun father and son outing. With this in mind, we packed up a few snacks and what not and headed to the train station. We had two options for getting there by train; the more direct route would have been Fukuyama station towards Okayama with a transfer to the Hakubi line at Kurashiki straight to Ikura or the more scenic route. On the way there we opted for the more scenic. We started at our local station of Bingo Honjo, and even though Bingo Honjo is on the Fukuen line we managed to catch a train bound for the Ibara line, which is what we would have had to transfer to at Kannabe. From Kannabe we continued on the Ibara line till Kiyone Station in Okayama and from there transferred to the Hakubi line.
Ikura Station

Entrance to Ikura-kyo, the area around the cave

We finally reached Ikura station about one hour and forty-five minutes after we left, which is about as far as I would want to travel by train with a four year old.
Thankfully the cave itself is only a 10 minute walk from the station making it really accessible for those of us who don't own a car and like to do our traveling by train. Ikura itself is just a small mining town, and unless you knew before hand that the cave was here you would think you had gotten off at the wrong station. The area around the cave though is nicely done with a few restaurants specializing in some kind of trout from the Takahashi River and of course the requisite tourist shops selling memorabilia.  The cave itself is located in the 240-meter tall vertical precipice formed by slow erosion of the limestone by the Takahashi River that runs from it's headwaters near the border of Okayama and Tottori Prefectures to Kurashiki City. The total length of the cave is 1,200 meters. Theo had a lot of fun being an explorer on an adventure and continually reminded me during the entire 45 minutes that we were in the cave. For anyone who is even remotely claustrophobic I would not recommend this cave as the majority of our "adventure" required me stooping down to Theo's height and only occasionally did it open up to something a little more comfortable. That being said it is a beautiful cave and though some of the installations have seen better days it is well worth the ¥1000 admission price. 

Entrance to the cave
Because of the lighting many formations had moss growing on them

This cave was definitely Theo size

Halfway through there is a short cut tunnel carved out for people who want to quit early

Like so many attractions we have been to in Japan this one has not escaped having money thrown at it for good luck

A beautifully lit pool called "the Inland Sea"

And finally what Japanese attraction wouldn't be complete without a shrine. This one was called the marriage shrine, though who would want to get married in a cave is beyond me.
The area around the cave is also quite scenic, especially now with the onset of autumn and the leaves beginning to change colors. In the same area is another cave Maki-do, which at 450-meter-long is relatively smaller than the Ikura-do, but is characterized by an underground lake at the farthest end of the cave. The red Ryugu-bashi bridge and the many other bridges built on the lake are illuminated to entertain visitors. This cave however is further from the station so Theo and I did not visit it this time around. On the way back we took the more direct route through Kurashiki.

If you love flavored soft cream this is the place for you, though you might want to avoid some of the stranger flavors like wasabi or soba noodle.

Theo enjoying his black sesame soft cream and me with chestnut flavor.


Carol said...

Wow! What a fascinating place! I love caves. And flavoured ice cream. And Theo and Dustin.

Unknown said...

Thanks Marn, we love you too!

Anonymous said...

I love flavored caves and spelunking in ice cream!