Past eruptions of Mount Fuji had created several caves around Aokigahara Jukai「青木ヶ原樹海」 in the vicinity of Lake Saiko「西湖」 in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. Three of the caves, the Narusawa Ice Cave, Fugaku Lava Cave (also known as Wind Cave) and Bat Cave, have been developed to be easily accessible to tourists.
I decided to go check out some of the caves but as I was on a tight schedule, I only visited the Wind Cave and the Ice Cave, due to the fact that they are within walking distance from each other.
The Fugaku Wind Cave is horizontal and is 201m long, whilst the Narusawa Ice Cave is concentric-vertical and is 153m long. These caves are designated as Japan’s natural monuments and even during mid-summer, visitors can see ice in the caves!
Fugaku Wind Cave 「富岳風穴」
When you alight from the bus stop, you will see this building 森の駅「風穴」, which houses the gift shop and a small cafe.
Turn to the right of the building and the Wind Cave is just a 2 min walk from this point.
This is the main entrance to the Wind Cave and you can even buy a ticket which covers admission to both the Wind and Ice Caves (i.e. if you want to visit both).
Combination ticket for the 2 caves:
The Ice Cave is a 25 min walk through the forest via the path hidden behind the wooden sign on the left of the above picture but more on that later. Let’s first check out the Wind Cave…
Map of the cave:
You’ll need to descend this flight of steps to enter the cave. There were several warning signs asking visitors to watch their step and heads!
If you look carefully, you may be able to see some ice on the floor of the cave…so you’ll need to tread carefully!
Gosh…I think this is my first time seeing blocks of ice in a cave!!
More ice…and I can’t understand what that sign says in Japanese!
The temperature in this cave is cold enough to be a natural refrigerator. I looked at some of the containers and they stored several items from biscuits to plant seeds! Lighting was rather dim and water kept dripping from the ceiling so I didn’t take many pictures in here.
According to the signs, these are lava pools.
Ok…that was the end of our exploration of the Wind Cave – it’s a relatively easy walk which takes about 15 min to complete.
Now let’s head over to the Ice Cave!…
Once you exist from the turnstiles at the Wind Cave, turn right and follow the path through the Aokigahara Jukai「青木ヶ原樹海」forest (its name translates to a sea of leafage) and it will take about 25 min to reach there on foot.
It is indeed a sea of leaves as that’s mostly what you’ll see throughout the walk!
Stay on the path and keep a lookout for the directional signs to make sure you are headed in the right direction.
This is quite picturesque and it kind of reminds me of a scene out of Princess Mononoke or similar anime.
Finally, we’ve arrived at our destination!…
Narusawa Ice Cave 「鳴沢氷穴」
Even during the summer, the temperature in the Ice Cave usually stays below freezing. Consequently the cave has been used since the early 1900s to store ice for use around the year. The circular walk through this cave is not very long, but contains passages with low ceilings and slippery stairs. It will take approximately 12 min to complete the exploration of this cave but give yourself more time if you walk at a slower pace or want to stop at certain sections and take more pictures.
Hard hats are provided just after the entrance turnstile and we each took one (just in case!). It’s stated that the temperature in this cave is zero degrees celsius! I must be out of my mind to go exploring in a cave at this temperature!!
Oh well, you only live once so here we go…
More signs and warnings…don’t take them lightly!
Let me show you a map of the cave before I go on further, so you can better relate to my experience.
The “fun” part was an easy walk – I can’t say that it was actually fun but perhaps when compared to the other sections in the cave, you may see it in this context.
The next picture shows the end of the “low & narrow” part which was challenging for my 1.84m tall hubby, who kept bumping his head against the low ceiling. Even I knocked my head several times although I am much shorter and it would have been painful if not for the hard hat! Here he’s about to descend at the “dangerous” section of the cave.
Make sure that you hold the handrails as the stairs are quite steep and may be slippery cos of the water dripping from the ceiling throughout the cave.
We then had to navigate through a passageway of ice blocks.
This next spot was the highlight for me in this cave and the sight kind of made it worth all that effort to get there.
Another look at the icicles but do note that it is extremely slippery in this area as there is black ice, dim lighting and puddles of muddy water. I slipped and stepped into one of the puddles and my jeans got stained with mud!
The arduous climb back up to ground level!…
I spoke to the guy at the gift shop of the Ice Cave and found out there was a shortcut back to the Wind Cave if you follow the road down, so it only took us 15 min to get back to the 森の駅「風穴」 gift shop at the Wind Cave.
As we still had 20 min to kill before our bus arrived, we decided to try one of the specialties of the shop and that was corn flavoured ice cream!
We bought 2 cones – one was just a corn flavoured soft swirl ice cream, and the other was a mixed swirl of corn and vanilla.
Ohh… before I forget – do look out for this piece of paper if you intend to visit both the Wind and Ice caves. You can use it to collect souvenir ink stamps from each of the caves, then when you’re done, present it at the 森の駅「風穴」 gift shop to collect a free souvenir.
The staff at the gift shop will then stamp it with a cute Totoro inkstamp and present you with 2 souvenir postcards. These were what I received:
Overall, I thought the Ice Cave was much better than the Wind Cave as there wasn’t much to be seen in the latter. However, I wouldn’t recommend young children or senior folks with mobility issues to visit the Ice Cave as it is a little tricky to navigate at certain sections of the cave, plus there are lots of stairs! Be prepared to bend over and walk at a 90 degree angle at some sections or get down and walk like a duck at the low and narrow sections.
Wear comfortable covered walking shoes, ensure you have sufficient clothing on to combat the cold temperature but try not to wear your best clothes as you may get mud over them! In addition, do not bring any heavy or bulky items as they will hinder your movement in the cave. We left our backpacks in one of the coin lockers at the Lake Kawaguchiko train station and never regretted our decision to do so as we were then able to move around freely.
If you don’t have time to visit both caves, without any hesitation, I will advise you to go for the Ice Cave! ^_^
Wind Cave: 2068-1 Aokigahara, Saiko, Fuji-Kawaguchiko-cho, Minami-Tsuru-gun, Yamanashi 401-0332, Japan.
Ice Cave: 8533 Narusawa-mura, Minami-Tsuru-gun, Yamanashi 401-0320, Japan.
The hours differ according to the season. During the month of my visit, the operating hours were as follows:
Sat, Sun & Public Holidays: 9:00～17:30
Last admission is 15 min before closing.
Admission Fee (for each cave):
Discount Coupons: These can be printed out from their website or you can get hardcopy coupons from the Lake Kawaguchiko Tourist Information Office and other tourist attractions or hotels.
However, if you buy the 2-cave ticket option, it costs the same as buying 2 separate tickets for each cave using the discount coupon.
Wind Cave: 0555-85-2300
Ice Cave: 0555-85-2301
For Guided Tour: 0555-85-3089
From Lake Kawaguchiko station, take the Retro Bus – Green Line which goes to Lake Saiko. This was the bus schedule when I visited. You may want to get the latest one from the Tourist Information Center at Lake Kawaguchiko.
It is cheaper to buy a 2-day Retro bus pass as a single trip will cost about ¥700 per adult.
This is the bus stop for the Fugaku Wind Cave.
Remember to check the latest bus schedules (on the signboard at the bus stop) when you arrive, so that you can estimate the amount of time which you can spend here and also ensure that you do not miss catching the last bus back.