I was sceptical about the trip to Ryugashi-Do since it is an hour’s bus ride from Hamamatsu, but I was pleased to find the cave was well worth the trip.
It was opened to the public in 1983, after explorers widened the cracks in the limestone to allow access and cleared away rubble. The length of the cave is about 1000 metres but only around 400 metres are developed and accessible to tourists.
The journey through the cave, on a metal pathway, passes stalagmites and stalactites of various shapes and sizes, coloured rock walls and other rock formations created as the limestone rock was dissolved by underground water. The mineral calcite in the limestone was carried through cracks in the rock. As the water dripped away it left traces of the calcite, which slowly built up, on the ceiling to create a stalactites or on the floor to create stalagmites.
Stalactites and stalagmites
The stalagmites and stalactites at Ryugashido have been given whimsical names and are artfully lit so they appear resemble real things. Look out for ‘the nail of the dragon’, Mount Fuji, a golden column, ‘the world about the clouds’, ‘jellyfish waterfall’, or my favourite – the alligator rock.
Golden Mount Fuji
The illuminated features
The highlight of the visit however, is the huge waterfall about half way round the circular loop. Water cascades down 30 metres all year round, and the lighting makes the water drops glisten like gold, hence the name the Golden Waterfall. The staircase that descends beside the waterfall is covered to spare visitors the worse of the spray.
Information boards are situated along the route through the cave, explaining the formation of some of the features such as the rim stone pools and the animal life that is found in the cavern. But even after reading the notices it can still be a surprise when a bat flies overhead.
A pamphlet, partly in English, can be picked up at the entranceway the cave. It explains the story of the man, Mr Sadao Toda, who first explored and developed the site in 1981.
Although there is a metal walkway inside the cave, the ground is damp in many places due to the on going passage of water through the system. There is no access for buggies or wheel chairs and good mobility as the route goes through the natural cracks in the rock. The inside of the cave is a constant 18 degrees Celsius — pleasant enough on a warm day.
Through the crack
At the cave exit is a small museum. Not much of the information is in English but it is relatively easy to understand the gist of it from diagrams, models and pictures.
Beyond the museum are the souvenir shop and then an area of food stalls including a locally made ice-cream kiosk.
Down a spiral pathway in front of the cave entrance is a free to enter footbath. Expecting a hot spa, the cold water coming from inside the cave was a shock.
The Ryugashido Cave is accessible by bus number 45 (stand 15) outside JR Hamamatsu station. The journey takes under an hour and there is a short walk from the bus stop.
Address: 193 Tabatake, Inasa-cho, Kita-ku, Hamamatsu, 431-2221
Phone: 053 543 0108
Working Hours: 9.00 - 17.00
Entrance Fee: Adult - 1000¥; Children - 600¥