A special time to spend in the Kawachi Wind Cave
Tucked away in the mountains east of Lake Biwa lies the only cave system in Shiga prefecture known as Kawachi Wind Cave.
To get here we drove, which took about 30 minutes from Hikone Station. Heartier travelers could also opt to rent a bicycle and enjoy the countryside and mountain views at a more leisurely pace.
Driving up the narrow winding road to Kawachi Wind Cave offers nice mountain views filled with greenery. The road runs parallel to a river with crystal clear water and is dotted with quaint mountain villages.
As we pulled into the tiny village near Kawachi Wind Cave, we were kindly greeted by a polite parking attendant who appeared to be a resident of the village. From there, we bought our tickets and continued towards the cave.
The path to the cave entrance meandered past an old shrine surrounded by huge cedar trees and cut through a forest teeming with life. Watching sunlight filter through the treetops and listening to various birds singing over the constant hiss of the river made the walk to the cave a peaceful and pleasant one. Closer to the cave mouth a metal staircase provides easy access, though an older stone path does the job just as well.
When we arrived at the small opening of the cave we were greeted by a cool wind breathing outwards from the cave, which was refreshing after walking in the hot sun. Shortly after entering the cave a lighted path with handrails brought us into the main chamber of the cave. Dim fluorescent orange light bathed the cave walls, revealing interesting features and small plants thriving in the cave.
Even more impressive was the rich soundscape, with eerie echoes of dripping water and the steady rumble of an underground river. A lone bird that appeared to be nesting in the cave was also making itself heard with a flourish of high calls reverberating through the chamber, which sounded almost alien in contrast to the other sounds.
Beyond the main chamber, the cave narrowed quickly, leading to a steep steel ladder. Shortly after, we arrived at a gate that blocked further exploration and had to turn back. Though this cave system extends for about 10 kilometers, visitors are only allowed to explore about 200 meters of it.
Making our way back to the cave mouth we explored the nooks and crannies of the main chamber and were even able to find a narrow entrance to an underground river.
Though I felt like I could stay for hours just enjoying the ambiance of the cave, we finally decided it was time to go and clambered out of the cave mouth. Perhaps it was the stillness of the cave or the beauty of the forest, but as we made our way back I felt a sense of clarity and calmness I haven’t experienced anywhere else.
Exploring Kawachi Wind Cave is perfect for travelers looking to cool down and enjoy the timeless nature of Shiga. It takes some time to get there, but it’s well worth the journey.