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Going Underground

Posted on 2006/08/29 04:28:01 (August 2006).

[Sunday 27th August]
We'd originally had a vague plan to go away somewhere this weekend, but as Chie had a dentist appointment the previous day this had been revised into just a daytrip. So Chie had done a bit of research and had somehow or other come upon the idea of visiting some caves. Nippara Shonyudo caves to be precise, near Okutama in the North West of Tokyo prefecture.

It took quite a while to get there as it was in a pretty remote part of Tokyo prefecture, and we were relying on fairly slow local trains and buses. So we first had about a 2 hour train journey to get from where we live to Okutama. From there it was a half hour bus ride to get to a little village (which I assumed was Nippara itself), and then finally another half hour walk from there to the place where the actual caves were. I got the distinct impression that this is the sort of attraction which most people get to by car.

Still, I don't mind this kind of travelling so much - I find it quite relaxing being on these little local trains, and the scenery was quite pleasant, especially towards the end of the journey.

The actual caves were quite nice - I'm not sure if I'd strongly recommend them to anyone else living in central Tokyo given the six hour round trip involved, but if like me you don't mind the travelling then it makes for an interesting and slightly different day out. They're billed as limestone caves, although it was only towards the end of the tour that we saw a few stalactites and stalagmites. I'm not sure these formations were really the star of the show, so much as the general atmosphere of the place. It was actually a bit creepy down there, especially as towards the end the passageways are quite narrow and not easy to navigate in a hurry.

After leaving the caves we popped into the adjoining cafe place (no Japanese tourist attraction would be complete without one) and had a strange late afternoon snack consisting of rice and lots of konnyaku. I'm never sure if I really like konnyaku or not, but I was quite hungry by this point, and was prepared to eat just about anything (with the usual constraints of a vegetarian diet, of course).

On the way back to Tokyo we stopped off in Tachikawa. Somehow or other Chie had found out there was a vegetarian Chinese/Taiwanese restaurant there. In fact the station had a big newish shopping centre built around it, and one floor was devoted to a kind of mini Chinatown. So we had a very nice meal at Chien Fu - apparently a small chain of vegetarian chinese restaurants. The menu was rather vast, and we were struggling to choose initially, so I rather flippantly said we should just get the most expensive set menu. To my surprise Chie actually agreed. We had something like 9 courses (although most of them were fairly small) and by the end we were rather stuffed. Very nice though - I'd definitely go again.

Comment 1

Looks like you have had an interesting trip. The last caves that I visited I think wre in Yugoslavia, they were quite impressive... I also don't know if I like konnyaku too, I mean the salty one is not that great, but the sweet ones are quite nice!

Posted by Lox at 2006/08/29 10:10:46.

Comment 2

John. Also in Tachikawa (the same building, Granduo), there is one of a chain of buffet/viking restaurants called Harvest (well, ha-besuto, in hiragana). The food is basically Japanese but with some other stuff (curried roast potatos, tomato pasta, etc) thrown in. Not exclusively vegetarian but lots of vegetarian or almost vegetarian stuff there, and very nice. There are several others around Tokyo, but thats the only one I've been to so far.

Posted by Tom at 2006/08/29 11:29:08.

Comment 3

Am I the only one who thinks "Chien Fu" is a canine martial art? (Obviously a French-Chinese crossover-martial-art...)

But... caves... Hmmmm. As long as they're big, roomy and well lit I'm fine. Pot-holing? Not for me!

Posted by Nigel at 2006/08/29 13:38:43.

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