One of the first things that many people think of when Fukushima is mentioned is the tragedy of the Daiichi accident. While this destination has become popular due to dark tourism, that's certainly not the only reason to visit Fukushima Prefecture. Located directly north of Tokyo, this mountainous region is also home to small settlements and a unique cave called Abukuma.
Known for having some of the rarest and most unique rock formations in the world, Abukuma Cave is truly a great experience for those who have never seen it. Tours take visitors past incredible natural cave features, including the largest stalagmite in Japan. Here's why it's worth visiting Fukushima.
How Abukuma Cave Was Formed
In comparison to some other caves around the world, the discovery of Abukuma is still fairly recent. Discovered for the first time in 1969, it's home to 3,000 meters of cavern systems. It's estimated that the age of the cave is something like 80 million years, and during that time, various stalagmites were formed that give each cavern a unique shape and appearance. It's also said that one of these caverns is home to the largest stalagmite in all of Japan, which makes it a great destination for those interested in furthering their geological bucket lists.
Other formations that visitors will see on a tour of Abukuma Cave are boxwork formations, as well as a formation affectionately nicknamed the Christmas Tree due to its floor-to-ceiling growth resembling that of a fir or spruce tree. This is also the stalagmite that has earned the reputation of being the largest in the country.
According to the Abukuma Cave website, visitors will see various stalactite formations hanging from cavern ceilings as they follow small chutes in the ground that lead deeper into the cave. These small waterways are responsible for giving the cave its unique appearance and have been doing so for millions of years. Petrified wood and features such as the 'Crystal Curtain' all give this cave the feeling of being a living, breathing ecosystem, rather than simply existing as a cavern.
Wildlife Within Abukuma Cave
It might be hard to believe that this damp environment, which exists at a constant temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, is home to a unique species - but it is! A common cave dweller that visitors might see are bats, which can be found sleeping in Abukuma Cave during the day before going out after dark to feed on insects around the cave and in the surrounding forest. Of these bats, three main species are present: Japanese lesser horseshoe bats, tube-nosed bats, and greater horseshoe bats. Additionally, springtails, pseudoscorpions, millipedes, and camelback crickets can also be seen hopping and crawling throughout the cave, thriving in its damp conditions.
- Fun Fact: When measured in its entirety, the cave is home to more than 9,000 feet of tunnels, caverns, and trails.
Touring Abukuma Cave
Those interested in seeing Abukuma Cave up close and personal can opt for one of two tours. Even though the cave is home to 9,000 feet of cavern space, tours only cover 1,968 feet of space within the cave. Tour-takers will be following various underground trails that can include steep staircases, inclines, and descending paths, which is something to be aware of. The main tour takes roughly an hour and does include some tight spaces but is fairly easily traversed other than that. Rather than taking flashlights, visitors don't need to worry about the lack of light underground - the cave is well-lit by lighting that has been specially installed into the cavern walls.
Those who are looking for a more thrilling tour - not that the main tour is any less exciting! - can opt for the exploration course. This tour runs pretty parallel to the first but follows a narrow, lesser-traversed tunnel system. It should be known that this tour does require a bit more from tour-takers, including knee-crawls and tight squeezes through certain passageways. This tour does give visitors a unique view of the cave from its less-touristy side, as well as access to a few more spots that wouldn't be seen on the main tour. For those who don't mind crawling through narrow spaces or potentially getting dirty, this is a great way to see Abukuma Cave. At the end of the exploration tour, it joins up at the Takine Goten hall which is where the main tour also ends.
Tour Fees & Hours
- Fees: Adults (16 and over) 1,200 yen | Children (13 – 15) 800 yen | Children (7 – 12) 600 yen | Discovery Course - Additional 200 yen fee
- Houts: Apr. 1 – Jun. 20: 8:30am – 5:00pm | Jun. 21 – Sep. 30: 8:30am – 5:30pm | Oct. 1 – Nov. 20: 8:30am – 5:00pm | Nov. 21 – Mar. 13: 8:30am – 4:30pm | Mar. 14 – Mar. 31: 8:30am – 5:00pm