(秋吉台国定公園) Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park

Akiyoshidai is the largest karst plateau in Japan, as well as home to one of Japan's largest limestone caves, Akiyoshido (source)

Now, if you are like me, you have no idea what a karst is. 

Karst is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves (wiki)

Budget: JPY3,640  (~USD35) from Yamaguchi Station
  • JPY2,340. Bus, Yamaguchi Station < > Akiyoshido Caves. (JPY1,170 roundtrip)
    • OR JPY2,000. One day, Yamaguchi Bus Pass. BUT you need to present your passport (original)
  • JPY1,300. Entrance fee, Akiyoshido caves.
Hike Date / Difficulty (Elevation: 377m / 1,237ft)
  • December 30, 2021
  • Difficulty: 0 out of 5. 
  • As of writing, there is no decent map in Yamakei or Yamap. Below is the map provided at the information center, which is... well, it's better than nothing. There are two maps - trail run map and the trekking map. The trekking map are very short courses (about an hour courses), so I ended up using the trekking map, and following the Karst Observatory Course, which took me less than four hours. If I'm going to judge what would be the map time (and remove my drone time etc), it should be around 3-4 hours. 

When to Go
Anytime during the year! But a bit less frequent buses outside of summer/autumn (August to October?)

Special Notes
  • Weather forecast:  Japanese
  • There are NO ENGLISH signs at the trail of Akiyoshidai, so make sure to get the English AND Japanese maps so that you will know what the Japanese characters mean. 
  • Access. Akiyoshidai can be access via bus going to the cave - Akiyoshido. 
    • From inside Akiyoshido is an elevator that will take you to Akiyoshidai, so don't lose the ticket for the cave as you'll have to show it going back.  
      • If you don't want to go via the cave, you can always walk from the bus stop. There used to be a bus going to Akyoshidai (not just Akiyoshido), but that has been suspended for who knows how long.   
    • There are a couple of buses going to the cave, and I put in two here - via Shin Yamaguchi Station and Mine Station. 
      • Bus, Shin-Yamaguchi Station to Akiyoshido (秋芳洞). Bus schedule
        • North exit, Bus stop 2. Cash only. Tickets can be paid on the bus as normal, or paid at the ticket machines at the terminals. 
        • There's another bus coming from Yamaguchi Station, but this is a lot less frequent. 
      • Bus, Akiyoshido to Mine Station. Bus schedule.
    • For private transportation, you are spoiled for choice. Just google. 
Bus Schedule, Shin-Yamaguchi to Akiyoshido (source)

  • Mountain huts.  
    • Paid. There are a couple of hostels, and the official website has a list.
    • Free. None. 
    • Camping. None. 
Itinerary
  • 07:30am. Bus, Shin-Yamaguchi Station to Akiyoshido Cave. 
  • 08:07am. ETA: Akiyoshido Cave. 
  • 08:30am. Akiyoshido Cave opens. 
Actual Log
  • 10:10am. Bus, Shin-Yamaguchi Station to Akiyoshido Cave. There was already a line when I got there. Got on the bus, took my ticket upon boarding. 
  • 10:48am. Arrived at Akiyoshido Cave. Went to the very nice information center, and finally got a map for the hiking course. I followed the crowd and crossed the street to a shopping street and enjoyed the shops left and right. 
  • 11:04am. Arrived at the entrance of the cave. Bought my ticket (credit cards accepted), and went into the cave. 
  • 11:35am. Finished going to the end of the cave (and back), and arrived at the elevator. Started my hike (stroll?)
  • 01:20pm. Arrived at Mt. Kanmura (google says Kanzan). 
  • 02:44pm. Back at the cave. 
  • 03:00pm. Back at the information center. 
  • 03:30pm. Bus, Akiyoshido to Shin-Yamaguchi Station. 

At the bus terminals, there are these boards where you can see your bus and the bus stop. These seem to be common in Yamaguchi. 

Getting on the bus. There's a long line already. 

Getting down Akiyoshido. There's a board showing the bus time going back. 

Map for the trail run. 

Map for the trekking. 

Following the crowd to cross the street. 

The shopping street that has a hundred flavors of soft ice cream. 

Buying my ticket. 

My ticket - which I cannot lose since I have to show it before boarding the elevator coming back. 

A nice stroll to the cave. 

Entrance of the cave. 

There's an adventure route, for merely JPY300. You'll have to pay by dropping the coins at the box at the entrance.  This is a segue to the normal route, which is just a narrower, slipperier version I think. I didn't go here. 

A HUGE cave. 

The hundred plates or something. Very reminiscent of Yellowstone. 

Continuing on. 

Oh, I HATE THESE. These are the guides in four languages, where they will loudly broadcast the details of what you are looking at. This is SO NOISY. 

Going into the elevator in the middle of the cave. 

Apparently I started 80m down. 

Making sure I don't miss the elevator. 

For those who wants to take a taxi. Akiyoshidai is to the left of this sign. 

Here's the viewing point. 

I was following the map, and I know I am doing it clockwise and 若竹山 is at the end. So I backtracked,. 

Here's my entrance! Following the signs to 妙見原. 

From here on, most of the signs are small like these. 

Mt. Tsurugi is a segue, so I had to go to the left and take this trail back down. 

Mt. Tsurugi top.

Going down. 

Continuing on. 

Mt. Kanmuri (冠山) !

Oh, another Kanmuri (冠山) marker. 

I have the option to go to Jigokudani (地獄谷), but I decided to follow my trail map and turned right here. 

Continuing on. 

Arrived at Chojagamori (長者ヶ森). This is the pic looking back. The trail is confusing, but to continue on, take the trail to the left (I had to backtrack). 

Continuing on.

The top of Wakatakeyama (若竹山). Except there's no marker. 

Well the marker is at the entrance. 

I took a left here. But I think I made a mistake since I ended up looping at Myoukenhara (妙見原)... Well, I still managed to get back. So at this point, I don't know what the right trail is. 

Back at Myoukenhara (妙見原) fork, this time looking forward to being done as it was freeeeezing cold. 

Finally back!

Reading some of the background. 

Back at the cave. 

Big cave!

aaaand I'm done!


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