Akiyoshidō and Akiyoshidai
Akiyoshidō and Akiyoshidai, which are located in Mine City, are two of Yamaguchi’s most famous locations. In 2007, they were collectively selected as one of Japan’s hundred geological wonders. The Akiyoshidai underground water system was added to the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty that serves to protect wetlands, in 2005.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Akiyoshidō. 100 years ago, a man by the name of Bunjirō Umehara used his own money to turn Akiyoshidō into a sightseeing location. Since then, Akiyoshidō has become one of Yamaguchi Prefecture’s premier sightseeing destinations. The cave was originally called Takiana, or “waterfall hole.” It was renamed Akiyoshidō in 1926 by Emperor Shōwa on a visit to the cave while he was still Crown Prince.
Akiyoshidō is the largest limestone cave in East Asia. However, only a one kilometer portion of the ten kilometer cave is open to tourists. Visitors to the cave wishing to explore more can also choose to try the 150 meter exploration course (which is separate from the standard entrance fee) located roughly 100 meters from the Akiyoshidō entrance. The temperature inside the cave remains 17 degrees Celsius year-round, so if you are looking for a way to cool down this summer, why not plan a trip to Akiyoshidō?
As you walk through Akiyoshidō, be on the lookout for animals. If you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the animals in the cave, make sure to note their characteristics. The animals living in Akiyoshidō have adapted to the dark environment through a lack of pigmentation in their bodies and rudimentary eyes. There are six species of bats that live in Akiyoshidō, and the total number of bats in the cave is about 15,000.
In celebration of the centennial, an exhibit featuring roughly 100 pictures taken throughout Akiyoshidō’s 100 year history will be on display in the Akiyoshidō shopping arcade in Mine City from now until December 27th.
Akiyoshidai is located 100 meters above Akiyoshidō. Akiyoshidai is the largest karst plateau in Japan, spanning 130 square kilometers. The limestone rocks that dot the landscape of Akiyoshidai were coral reefs 300 million years ago. A part (1,384 hectares) of Akiyoshidai has been designated a Special Natural Monument. Akiyoshidai’s most famous event is the yamayaki, which takes place every Feburary. During the yamayaki old grass and twigs are burned so that new grass will grow.
Akiyoshidai is easily accessible from Akiyoshidō. Elevators connect the cave to ground level, and it is just a 3 minute walk to the entrance to the plateau. If you have paid the admission fee for Akiyoshidō, it is possible to reenter the cave after you have visited Akiyoshidai for a fee of 100 yen.
“Akiyoshidai Summer Eco Tours” will be conducted every Sunday from now until September 27th (excluding August 16th). Each week there is a different topic. Some tour subjects include the seven grasses of fall at Akiyoshidai, fossils, and exploring a part of Akiyoshidō that has not been opened to the public. The participation fee ranges from 1,400 yen to 3,000 yen depending on the tour. Many of the tours include lunch, and all include insurance. Tours will also take place in the fall, but information regarding those tours is not yet available.
It is also possible to explore Akiyoshidai on your own. If you are planning on walking around the plateau, there are multiple trails that are varying lengths, so you may want to plan ahead. If you are driving to Mine City, it is also possible to view Akiyoshidai from a nearby road. No matter how you get to Akiyoshidai, make sure to visit the Karst Observatory either before or after your trek through the plateau. The observatory is circular, therefore providing visitors with a 360 degree panorama view. From the observatory, you can see not only the plateau but other surrounding scenery as well.