The Hundred Caves of Yoshimi
Glimpse into the afterlife at these mysterious graves.
Though they’re called the hundred caves of Yoshimi, there are actually 219 of them in this little town in Saitama. In folklore, it was thought that they were the homes of a race of little people, but now we know that they’re actually ancient graves from over a thousand years ago.
The caves were designated as a National Historical Monument in 1923 and offer a rare glimpse into how the Japanese people of the past prepared themselves for the afterlife.
You can also see luminous moss called hikarigoke in the caves. Designated as a Natural Monument of Japan, this moss is very sensitive to changes in its environment and has a mysterious greenish-gold glow.
Some of the caves were destroyed to make way for an underground munitions factory during WWII, and you can explore these tunnels too, flashlight in hand. Make sure you bring a jacket – the caves can reach a chilly 15 degrees Celsius even in the summer.
April is a great time to visit; the cherry blossoms in bloom with the caves as a backdrop make for a practically prize-winning picture. If you come by from January to May, you can take a short detour on your way home and visit one of the many strawberry farms in Yoshimi, and pick fresh strawberries yourself. Pop by the nearby Iwamuro Kannon Temple, which was originally built in 1670. It’s a rare example of gake-zukuri – a temple built on the side of a cliff.