Narusawa Ice Cave
You’ve got to know your ice from a hole in the ground…..once said a wise man.
Especially if the ice in the hole was once sent to government officials at the Edo Castle during the Edo Period (1603-1867).
The hole in this instance is actually a 21 meter deep cave at the foot of Mount Fuji known as the; Narusawa Hyoketsu/Ice Cave.
We visited the Ice Cave during the last days of summer, but it’s a good trip any time of the year.
We also went to nearby Wind Cave, and took a drive around Lake Saiko.
The average temperature of the cave is about -0°C and, the cave is covered with ice all year round. Also, Icicles are every where. An icicle sometimes grows up to 90ft. long and about 1.5 ft. wide.
Even during the summer, the temperature in Narusawa Hyoketsu usually stays below freezing.
Consequently the cave has been used since the early 1900s to store ice for use around the year.
The circular walk through this cave is not very long, but contains passages with low ceilings and slippery stairs.
The temperature in the cave on the day we were there was -0°C. It felt like we found a portal to Antarctica or something.
-0°C was enough to preserve a little of the ice that was built up in the cave over the past winter months. But I expect it will be more interesting when the dripping water builds up the ice pillars that grow to 3 feet or more in height, during the next winter.
Entering the cave requires a bit of caution as the steps are wet and slippery, but there are thick bamboo handrails to hold on to so it’s not a problem for most people. In fact, many of the kids who came out of the cave were begging their parents to let them go in again.
You can almost feel the darkness and sorrow as you traverse down into the Ice Cave.
There’s a little shrine comfortably hidden inside the cave, as well.
Many offerings; For all the lost souls wandering around the area.
There is one part that requires you to crouch and be careful of your head as the ceiling is low in a few places. It’s actually a pretty small cave and walking through it takes roughly about 30 minutes.
The Ice Cave was formed many years ago when Mount Fuji erupted. As the lava cooled, the cave was carved out by hot gasses and molten lava flowing out.
In the winter the underground water freezes creating the ice pillars that sometimes connect the ceiling and floor. These pillars usually grow from February to March and the best month to see them is in April.
Narusawa Ice Cave is one of Japan’s natural monuments.
The Ice Cave is very important for geological reasons because of the geographical phenomenon known as the Tree Mold Lava Spiracle.
On the day we visited, even after an especially hot summer in Japan, there was still a bit of ice in the cave. Entrance to the cave costs 280 yen for adults (130 for children), but you can buy a 500 yen ticket that also includes entrance to the Fugaku Wind Cave (Lava Cave).
Having bought the multi-ticket we left the Ice Cave and drove a couple of minutes down the road to the Wind Cave. You can also walk through Aokigahara Forest from the Ice Cave to the Wind Cave; it’ll take you about 30 minutes)
The Sea of Trees
Aokigahara is the most haunted location, in all of Japan.
In the forest, take some time to have a look at the tree roots to see how tenacious these trees have grown in the magma from the lava flow. The roots grew along the magma and sealed all the crevices to establish their hold on the rocks.
Many people have killed themselves here.
Countless, who did not intend on suicide, have gotten hopelessly lost in this enormous forest of darkness.
Fugaku Wind Cave
This cave is a bit longer and about halfway through the cave you’ll come to the ice pond. When we visited there was a good bit of ice in the pond, but I expect it will be like a mini skating rink by next winter.
Just past the ice pond are racks holding cans full of acorns and other seeds. The cave was used to store these seeds for periods of 2 years or more.
There are also cans of silkworm cocoons, which were kept in the cool cave to keep the silkworms from maturing into moths, thus producing silk for a longer time.