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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

GW Day 3 Takine

We got up on day 3 and headed towards Takine town (滝根町) in Tamura City (田村市), Fukushima (福島). This place was recommended by my colleague who went there just 2 weeks before GW. There are at least 2 famous limestone caves in Takine and planetariums around.

Our first stop was Abukuma Limestone Cave (阿武隈洞). This cave was discovered in 1969 and is designated a natural heritage of the town. The stalactites have taken more than 80 million years to form.

Before we could explore the cave, we had to park somewhere down the mountain and then climb up. We were tired even before we reached the top. And this was with Li Yan's sprained ankle and my muscle aches.

To take a short cut up, we climbed these steep stairs. It was like climbing up the stairs at the Fukuroda Falls all over again.

Our car was somewhere down there. It is really steep. There is a point where you have to be crawling on all fours.

Pictures are not allowed to be taken in the cave. So we left our things in the locker and headed towards the cave, which we had to sort of climb down the mountain again. We were like, what's the point in climbing up?!

The temperature inside the cave is about 15 degrees all year round, with a high humidity level of above 90%. The stalactites in the cave have taken more than 80 million years to form. We paid more to be able to go on an 'exploration course' which was like an extension of the normal course. The exploration course is narrower with lower ceilings, so there were instances where we had to squeeze between rocks or duck our heads. It was nice. But there so many people because it was GW, and there was like a queue. So basically you are on a constant moving queue, going through the cave. The cave was lit quite well, and there were caution signs (for low ceilings) everywhere. There was even a tv crew filming at one part. I thought it was not bad for a tourist place.

The area around Abukuma-do.

Map of the surrounding area.

A shrine in the area.

View of the cave from the outside. Basically, the mountain.

There was a planetarium just sort of beside the cave, so we went to take a look.

The planetarium. We had to walk across that circular bridge.

The circular bridge leading to the planetarium is called 天地人桥. The bridge has apparently spots to see the star constellations.

Cancer constellation~

I really wanted to go to the other limestone cave around the area called the Irimizu Limestone Caves (入水鍾乳洞), also knowned as the Drowned Limestone Caves. Irimizu caves were discovered in 1927 and is designated a National Natural Treasure. I heard from my colleague that for the other cave, there are courses where you have to rent slippers and torches/candles and would be in waist deep water. However, we were at Abukuma-do till like 4pm and the caves close at 5pm. Since we were close by, we thought we would stop by to try our luck.

For the Irimizu caves, there are 3 courses. Course A was still open for admission, while the rest were closed as it was too late. So we decided to just go for course A.
The Irimizu caves are totally different from the Abukuma caves. There were very little shops around and it was not a tourist place. There were so few people, and the place was kind of run-down. After parking our car, we headed up and there was just one old guy at the entrance. When we said that we would like to go for Course A, he nodded without blinking an eye and took our money and just said, "Go in and walk till you see a sign which says 'End of Course A', then turn back and come back out the same way."

The entrance.

The price list for the 3 courses. For Course C, a guide is needed.

At the entrance of the caves, there were 2 bats flying constantly in and out. I was like ?!#$
I'm no good with flying creatures. So Li Yan went first and I just ran in after her. lol.

It was a totally different experience. Inside the caves, it was really wet. The name of the cave is really apt. The floors were not paved like the Abukuma-do. It was rocky and slippery. The ceilings are much lower, it was colder, humidity level was definitely higher. We had to duck, hold the rocks to climb, squeeze through the rocks, etc. The lighting was bad and there were much lesser warning signs around. Basically, it is definitely not a tourist place.

A waterfall in the cave.

See the floor? There is running water everywhere. We had to walk through that in our shoes, that were definitely not supposed to get wet. And we were carrying handbags. We were like, why didn't the guy at the entrance warn us or something.

End of Course A. And look at the difference! For Course B and C, you have to be wearing slippers since you will be in constant contact with water; and since it is unlit all the way, you have to have torches or candles. Basically you will be wading in that water just past this gate. The water is about 10 degrees.

Trying not to get our shoes wet, we went slow and climbed on areas that had the least water.

The map of the full course. We only finished A.

I definitely want to go back to the Irimizu caves. It is so interesting and it is such an experience! I swear I'll go back and finish all the courses. This time, I'll go prepared.

After the exciting caves, we got back into the car and drove to Minamiaizu town (南会津町), which is where Li Yan's cousin who is also on JET, staying. It is really in the mountains. We had to drive through the mountains to get there.
For the night, we stayed at a guesthouse. There was a outdoor onsen but I was too much in pain to bother.
Due to the long drive, and the fact that we didn't stop to eat (we barely ate the whole day), I started having bad gastric pains. Since there was nothing open except the combini (it was only 8 plus), we just grabbed cup noodles and headed back to the guesthouse.

Minus the fact that I started having gastric, it was a great day. I love the caves! Especially Irimizu caves. Anyone up to go with me? =)

~ { 10:18 PM }
reflections @ 10:18 PM 0 comments

Sunday, May 23, 2010

GW Day 2 Hitachi, Koriyama

Day 2 of Golden Week pics~

We got up and headed for Fukuroda Falls (袋田の滝), north of Ibaraki in Daigo town. This waterfall is ranked number 3 in Japan. In winter, the water freees and is apparently quite a sight.

Driving on the way to the Fukuroda Falls.

Koinobori (carp streamers) fluttering in the wind.

Sightseeing spots in Ibaraki.

We parked quite a distance away from the falls as there were only 2 or is it 3 carparks with free parking. Since it was GW and there were loads of people, we had to park at the one which was furthest away.

We could take an elevator up to look at the waterfall at eye level.

View from the bottom of the waterfall.


Suspension bridge

View from the suspension bridge.

We saw this sign that pointed upwards which said 20mins, and I remembered that my colleague who came here 2 years ago mentioned that we could climb up to see the view from the top of the waterfall. So, what was there to lose since it is just 20mins? So we started climbing the stairs....

which went on forever.

And I really mean FOREVER.

The start of a very er... memorable climb. Lol.

The stairs at the start.

After the metal stairs came the stairs made of rock, which were steep, uneven, narrow and sometimes broken. Let me tell you that climbing stairs is no joke.

View of the waterfall at some point of the climb.

Well, we reached a fork that went 2 ways and we decided to go straight up instead of turning left. We thought that well, we could go left as we came back down. Well, this decision kind of sealed our fate for the next 2hrs...
The stairs went all the way up to the mountain. It came to a point where we were like, it's too late to turn back.
Since we didn't know how long it would take, it was like climbing with no destination in sight. We kept asking the people coming back down, how much longer it would take.

No, the stairs continue after this short rocky path.

FINALLY. The top.

And the view? Er... not much actually. It took us 1hr and 45 mins to get up to the top by stairs. Coming back down was faster. About 50mins?
Imagine climbing stairs. Not a slope, nor dirt path. STAIRS. ALL THE WAY. From the bottom of the mountain to the top.
Oh, did I mention that we were wearing flats? And my flats were not comfortable at all.
I knew I was going to be in pain the next day.
And guess what? Just as we started our way back down, Li Yan tripped and sprained her ankle.

The view from the left fork, which is the top of the waterfall.

On the way down, people started asking us how long it would take them to get to the top of the waterfall or to the top of the mountain. Lol.

Back down.

We climbed half of this route. It was good that we chose to come down the same way we went up. If we went down the other way, it would have been much longer.

With our tired feet, we made our way back to the car and drove to Koriyama for the night.

~ { 12:46 AM }
reflections @ 12:46 AM 3 comments