Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Feeling Brave at Shonyudo Cave

When offered a free trip to a hill region famous for its limestone, as a foreign traveller, it is one's duty to accept the offer - no matter how disinterested one might be in geology.  One must absolutely say "yes" no matter how difficult it is to deliver - with any measurable amount of sincerity - the line, "Did you say limestone?!?!  Oh yes, limestone is my very favorite of all of the stones.  Let us away!"

After all, one never knows what is lurking beneath the monolith-littered hillsides.

Had the verdure of the hills and the impressive concentration of limestone been the highlight of this Japanese mini-adventure, as a nature lover, I would have been satisfied.  What?!  I do love nature - looking at it, reading about it, hearing other people's stories.  Yes, I love nature as long as there is a hospital and a clean restroom within twenty-five miles.

We went on a beautiful nature walk as the afternoon sun did its best to
break through the clouds and the leafy canopy of the subtropical forest.

We stopped for a breather when Nami asked us if we were interested in exploring a cave.  I honestly think she waited to reveal the surprise cave as a test of our loyalty...apparently we passed the test with our utterly-convincing portrayal of limestone enthusiasts.

Mary, Masa, and Mr. Tiny at the Shonyudo Cave marker.
I asked Nami what the rock said and her reply was, "It's too hard."
What else would a rock say?

After my intrepid exploits in The Lost World Caverns of West Virginia, I have come to fancy myself quite the spelunker.  My second cave on my second continent - I think it's time to start writing that cave-safety book!

The entrance to the cave has all of the Japanese character for which
a tourist could ask - waterfall, trickling stream, and arch bridge.

A cadre of religious icons flank the mouth of Shonyudo Cave.
I was hoping that it was more a testament to the sacredness of the
ground and less a last-ditch prayer to avoid a calamitous cave-in.

More disconcerting than the thought of being trapped in a cave was
the communal sandals which we were forced to don in order to enter.
Fortunately, the largest pair fit.

The cave was welcoming in its beauty;
It all started out so dry and so level...

We were so taken by the stalactites, rock formations, and underground gardens,
that we almost missed the cave river.  As soon as we saw it, Nami let us in on the
second surprise of the day - the rest of the cave adventure would be done in the river!  

Mary maneuvers the shallowest part of the ice-cold water and the
narrowest parts of the rocky outcroppings.  Keep in mind that I was
doing the same whilst trying to snap photos in a Texas (Canadian)
tuxedo with jeans that wouldn't roll past my cankles.

I don't look like I'm having as much fun as Mary, but really, I am.
Visiting Shonyudo Cave was a unanimous favorite of our trip to Japan.

Sometimes I exaggerate the truth for the purposes of exciting storytelling;
I exaggerate not when I tell you that we celebrated reaching the end of the
trail by sharing the contraband, strawberry KitKat that I managed to
keep in my pocket!  We sang a song and toasted with the smuggled sweets.

Then we retraced our steps and celebrated that we made it out alive - drenched to the knee but very much alive.

We had a few slips, slides, and two-broken sandals (me) along the way but never once thought about the traveler's insurance we did not get until we had made it out unscathed.

Successful spelunkers!

We even made cave friends!
Mary and Nami said they saw a bat fly inches over my head; it was a good
thing I didn't see it because the echo of my girlish screams would have
reverberated through the cave indefinitely.  And this five-inch slug, whom we
lovingly called "poop," wished us good luck and welcomed our safe return.

Feeling lucky to have made it out without incident or
accident, we added a few coins to the pile - a small
price to pay for so many great cave memories!
Have you ever been exploring in a cave?  Do you think head-to-toe denim is appropriate cave exploring attire?


Mr. Tiny


  1. So, you planning to go see "Floyd Collins" at the La Mirada Civic Theatre?

  2. Much too scary! I had to look it up and *SPOILER ALERT* there is no joyful resolution!!!