Miyakoda hiking & Washizawa cave

In a desperate attempt to think of ways to get fit, I randomly suggested to my friends that we should go hiking.  I didn’t think at the time that actually it’s a bit hot for hiking and, had I known I would end up with a sunburnt head, I might have thought twice. But, it was a good way to see a different part of my local area, and a little bit of nature…

I Googled “hiking Hamamatsu” and the only route that came up (in English) was the Miyakoda Hiking Course.  All the information I had in English was:

Miyakoda Hiking Course, (Take the Akaden to Nishikajima station and transfer to the Tenryu-Hamanko line to Miyakoda station, then look for a signpost showing the hiking route, these will be at most major intersections on the route.). This “19 km hiking trail” is actually a route on the roads through the area. While quite confusing to the non-Japanese speaker, it does take one past Washizawa Cave, winds up in the mountains a temple, bridges,a waterfall, and finally to Takisawa Observation Platform. A new highway being built across this area seems to have altered some roads and creates for a challenge in route-finding. Be prepared to trek 25-30 km as the 19 km length assumes one does not get lost.

I felt a bit nervous about doing this alone, but once I had enlisted a bunch of friends to join me I figured we could cope.  My main concerns were (a) getting lost and (b) not being able to read signs. But with a mixed group of English and Japanese speakers, plus a collected 5 cell phones, some with GPS capabilities, I felt we could manage. This was my first hiking experience, by the way…

My friend helped us to find the cheapest way to get there. It turns out there’s a ticket which includes both the Tenryu-Hamanako Line and the Akaden as a one-day ticket. Details are on this website.

The ticket cost just 1,300 Yen.

It was my first time to ride the Akaden (red train) which I often see running through Hamamatsu near my school. It’s a cute little train which soon takes you out of the town and into the countryside.

Aka-den

The Tenryu-Hamanako Line is even cuter though.  The train was so tiny, it looked like a bus on train tracks!

Tenryu-Hamanako Line train

Once we had gathered at Miyakoda Station and had a bite to eat, (nothing like home-made rice balls in the fresh air!) it was time to set off. I honestly thought at this stage that there was no way I could have done this trip by myself. The trains were fairly easy to figure out but, faced with this map…

Walk this way...

…I didn’t know where to go next!

Luckily, I could follow my friends. So, off we went. It was blazing hot, and we were all sweating buckets in no time. Parts of the walk were slightly up-hill, but it really wasn’t that strenuous a hike. It felt like we walked for miles, but I think the heat just made it feel worse. We actually only walked from the station to Washizawa Cave (number 2 on the map above).

Miyakoda hiking

Along the way, we saw a lot of nature… including HUGE spiders!! >_< I hate spiders but I couldn’t resist taking pictures of them…

Aracnophobia...

To make up for that, I also saw a beautiful dragonfly:

Dragonfly

It was really nice to be out in the relative middle of nowhere.  It’s been a long time since I walked in nature and, despite the heat, I enjoyed the simple pleasure of seeing hills, blue sky, plants and wind turbines. Ok, so wind turbines aren’t exactly natural, but I think they’re kind of beautiful. I like the way they stand majestically on the hills, seemingly-silently turning.

Miyakoda hiking

I should have known that this day was not going to be any ordinary day – I am in Japan, after all. As we were walking I suddenly stopped to listen. I could hear drums. Not just drums. I could hear guitars and singing. What on earth was going on?

As we rounded the next corner, I spotted the source of my excitement – a tiny music festival!

Phantom Tone festival

We determined from some signs that it was probably the Phantom Tone music festival.  You had to pay to go in, but we found that we could listen quite easily from the hill nearby. 😉

The festival was right by Washizawa Cave, where we had decided to break and escape the heat.

You might remember, recently I went to Ryugashi-do Caves.  I found it very interesting to compare the two. Washizawa Cave (鷲沢風穴) was not at all kitted out for foreigners (no surprise really, given its location). I got a pamphlet but it was all in Japanese. They don’t appear to have a website. It cost only 400 Yen to go in, and we had to wear a helmet.

Azusa, Kumi, Kyohei and Matt

I was a bit dubious about going in anywhere where I had to wear a helmet, but we soon learned that the main reason for the helmet was that the cave was very tight, small, and some parts were quite low. You had to bend down and squeeze through some parts – it was quite an adventure!

Washizawa Cave

The cave was not quite as impressive inside as Ryugashi-do, but still had some beautiful formations:

Washizawa Cave

And some interesting shrine-like areas:

Washizawa Cave

I thought this frog was so cute – although I have no idea what he represents!

Frog god?

I don’t know much about this cave but, according to the Internet, it is the only cave with a horizontal ceiling, and it  supposedly provided a refuge for warriors during the 1300s.

Steps

It certainly was the less-touristy alternative to Ryugashi-do.  There was a tiny shop next to the cave where, thankfully, they had ice cream. So we sat and had an ice cream, and listened to the music festival. Then, slightly weary, we made our way back to Miyakoda Station…

Returning

The full collection of photos can be seen on Flickr, as usual.

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