Shintō CavesAma no Yasukawara Cave, Takachiho, Miyazaki, Kyūshū. Fall 2006. A short walk along the Iwato stream from Ama-no-Iwato Jinja, this cave is said to be the one where the kami met to decide how to entice the sun kami Amaterasu out of the cave she retreated into after her brother Susano-o destroyed her rice fields and desecrated her palace.
The cave where Amaterasu hid is said to be across the stream from Ama-no-Iwato shrine. No access across the stream to it, but it can be seen from an observation deck.
Ama no Iwato, Mie. Summer 2012. South of Ise Shrine, on the road to Shima, is another cave called Ama no Iwato, where the sun kami hid until the other gods drew her out.
Udo Cave, Miyazaki, Kyushu. Fall 2006. Udo Cave houses a shrine dedicted to the father of Emperor Jimmu, Japan's legendary first emperor. A walkway at the back of the cave features a breast-like bulge on the rocky ceiling, said to be the breast of Jimmu’s grandmother, which she left behind to feed Jimmu’s father before returning to her sea palace.
Mt. Fuji CavesHitoana, Yamanashi. Spring 2008. To the west of Fuji, Hitoana is a cave where the sixteenth century ascetic-mystic Kakugyo meditated until the spirit of the mountain appeared to him in a vision as a dual god that was both the female Asama-Sengen and the Buddha Dainichi. Kakugyo was one of the founders of Fuji-ko, societies for worshipping Fuji as a god and savior of Japan. As part of the worship, Kakugyo promoted summer pilgrimages to the summit and climbed the mountain over 100 times himself.
Fuji Lava Caves. Fall 2009. Fuji Lava Caves are known for their ice stalactites and stalacmites, but so many visitors enter, ice blocks are set up to prevent the icicles from melting.
Buddhist CavesNatadera, Ishikawa. Winter 2008. The caves are in a hillside above the grounds of a temple dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. One cave houses a altar; visitors walk through the cave to be cleansed and reborn.
Muroto Cave, Fall 2009. Muroto Cave, Kochi, Shikoku. Summer 2009. The cave is said to be where Kobo Daishi (774–835), the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, attained enlightenment.
Enoshima Iwaya, Kamakura, Kanagawa. Summer 2012. Enoshima Iwaya includes two sea caves located in the cliffs on the south side of Enoshima Island. Traditions associate the caves with the mediations of the monk Kōbō-Daishi (Kūkai) as well as with Yoritomo, the first Kamakura shogun, who is said to have trained and prayed for victory there.
Buddhist Caves, Matsushima, Miyagi. Fall 2009. Dug into rocks, the Buddhists caves of Matsushima were used for meditation. Left: Cave on Oshima Island. Right: Caves along the Pathway to Zuiganji.
Taya Cave, Josen Temple, Yokohama, Kanagawa. Spring 2014. From about 1200 to 1700, Shingon Buddhist monks excavated this site for spiritual training. With a candle provided at the door, you enter a maze of tunnels with carvings on the walls and ceilings, chambers for meditation and altars.
Natural Limestone Caves
Akiyoshi Cave, Yamaguchi. Summer 2009. Akiyoshido is the largest and most impressive natural cave in Japan.
Ryusendo ("Dragon Spring Cave"), Miyako, Miyagi. Summer 2005. Ryusendo is one of the three largest stalactite grottos in Japan, with a stream running through it and a small lake.
Ryugado ("Dragon River Cave"), Kochi, Shikoku. Summer 2009. Ryugado is one of Japan's three major limestone caverns along with Ryusendo in Iwate Prefecture and Akiyoshido in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Ikura Cave, Okayama. Summer 2009. Along with Akiyoshi-do, Ryusen-do, and Ryuga-do Ikura-do is one of the major limestone cave. It's wet with a feathery waterfall just outside the exit tumbing down a 787 ft. (240 m) high limestone cliff into the Takahashi River. There are three waterfalls inside the cave as well.
Maki Cave, Okayama. Spring 2011. Near Ikura-do is Maki-do, smaller, with a pool and bridges at the back of the cave.
Hida Limestone Cave, Nagano. Spring 2008. The Hida Limestone Cave features miniature stalactites and stalacmites.