While we didn’t technically stay in Iwaizumi, we stayed fairly close. The actual place that we stayed was the Mitagai michi-no-eki. Today was a much faster start to the morning, we’d packed, cleaned and eaten by 9:30AM. We even had fresh (super delicious and local) peaches.
Our first stop of the day (and the reason for the slight detour from our southerly heading) was a giant limestone cave (one of the three biggest in Japan) that Risa has wanted to see for a fairly long time. Caves are among her favourite things, especially limestone caves with their stalactites/stalagmites. This once, I decided to indulge her (as I find caves pretty interesting, too).
The caves, Ryusen-do (dragon spring cave) and Ryusen-shindo (dragon spring new cave) were just outside of Iwaizumi town, about 30 minutes from where we camped last night. It was a pretty town, and Risa had a friend that was an ALT there, though since we are short on time, we didn’t get to explore anything other than the caves. Entrance to the caves was reasonable enough, ¥1000 for both. Ryusen-do is the main attraction, and at first, I thought they’d destroyed it. Wide concrete pathways and colourful lighting, but the further we entered, the more natural it began to feel.
There is quite a serious flow of liquid flowing through the cave (30kL/day), with indoor waterfalls (tiny) and deep (up to 120m) lakes. The water is said to be the worlds clearest water (40m+ of visibility), and while it won’t seem like that in the photos, I can promise you in the person it was pretty damn clear.
The walk around Ryusen-do took us about an hour, which was plenty long enough for me to get quite cold (the coldest point was 11˚C) and for my camera to fog up like crazy when we finally went back to the 28˚C (and humid) outdoors. The trail at one point climbed up a giant set of stairs to really give a sense of how tall some of the caves are. There were even points where we could see (tiny) bats flying around.
After warming up (and Risa snacking on a BBQ’d fish) we crossed the road to the new caves. The description had said that it was a display of prehistoric tools etc, which I’ve seen more than enough times and wasn’t all too interested in seeing again. Slightly foolish of me, as this cave was far more impressive (as a cave) but there were dozens of signs forbidding photography (as well as making it difficult with glass/wire obstructing view). I know that it’s a ban to stop ‘flash’ photography, not long exposure photography, and I know that my photos won’t do any harm to the cave/creatures, but I couldn’t explain that to the other tourists, so I left the camera in the bag (where I was hoping it wouldn’t fog again). There was much more stalactite activity in this cave, and (apart from the glass/plastic/wire) the cave seemed more natural (no green/pink/blue lighting etc). Access was more limited, as they are still actively researching it. And, as we finally were leaving the cave, there was a prehistoric family eating a meal, and a collection of their tools. Description was correct.
It had been a while since we’d found a natural spring (Niseko actually), so we made the most of it and filled our water bottles with amazing, fresh and free water.
It was now about 1PM, and it was time to head to our next attraction. There is about 180km of coastline with interesting rock formations along the east coast of Iwate, we headed to a famous area in Miyako. The first place we were going to see was a natural blow-hole called Shiofuki-ana (which happens to mean female ejaculation, too…), but since the signage was shit, we didn’t find it, and spent a pleasant 15 minutes driving through super tight/twisty roads only to pop out in the town. Since the Delica has a turning circle of a small bus, we couldn’t turn around on the road that we were on, we had to keep driving, and once we’d finally gotten to the town, we weren’t motivated enough to drive back.
Where we did pop out though was near the second attraction that we wanted to see, Jodogahama. It’s a set of jagged, white rocks, in a blue bay with a beautiful white beach. At least that’s what we had read. It was a Saturday, and it’s a record breakingly hot summer, so crowds were to be expected, but to be honest, it wasn’t such a problem. There were people, sure, but not hordes of people. There were all the usual tourist operators offering cruises out to see the coastline from boats, as well as the souvenir shops selling treats/sweets for Japanese to bring home to their friends/co-workers.
The trail from the car park went to three bays, and all three had beautiful blue water. It was very overcast, so I wasn’t expecting much colour, but the water was spectacular; clear, colourful and inviting. The first bay had been transformed into a giant concrete boat ramp for the tour operators. The second was nicer, but the third was the one. I’d seen the rocky outcrop many times in photographs (in tourist brochures, photographed much better than I could ever do), so it immediately felt familiar. Yes, it had interesting white rock formations. Yes, it had beautiful clear/blue water. The white beach? It was white, but it was a beach of white rocks. Smooth, but still rocks. Due to the overcast skies, temperatures here were reasonable, and my desire to go for a swim was quite low (I hate the sticky feeling from swimming in sea water). There were a dozen or so teenagers jumping from one of the rocks (from a height of about 2-3m), but other than that, there weren’t really any bathers. Just casual observers. Like us.
We walked around for a while, even walking into the waters before returning back to the car, (feeling slightly disappointed that I couldn’t photograph it like they had in the brochures, but I’m going to blame the weather/clouds). We were absolutely starving (it was 3PM), and we happened to see a McDonalds sign as we were driving out of town. Naturally we stopped and had a snack. They had a whole heap of new burgers. I had the Cheese Tsukimi (moon see), which I would call the Bacon & Egg Cheeseburger. Pretty tasty. Risa had a Salt & Lemon Chicken Burger. It looked (and tasted) amazing! I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoy the occasional McDonalds. We finished up our meal with a Strawberry Yoghurt McFlurry. So gooood.
We jumped into the car and headed to Tono, another historical city. All that was separating us was another giant mountain pass. Hokkaido’s mountain passes are so tame in comparison. The mountain passes here are really tight, really steep and really long. You have to check the mirrors (on the road) as you go around corners to make sure there isn’t a car coming down at the same time, as you might not both fit. Going down was just as tight, but a setting sun in my eyes was also thrown into the mix.
We pulled into Tono, grabbed some steak/vegies for dinner, and set up camp in the michi-no-eki. Watched the sun set, cooked dinner (delicious, as always) and retreated to the van to watch an episode of Dexter before bed.
何を隠そう、わたしは、大の鍾乳洞フリークである☆ 小さい頃から家にあった鍾乳洞探検の写真本を、見ては道の世界に思いを馳せ、地図で“洞”の字を見ると行きたい病が発症する。 なかでもこの岩手県岩泉にある龍泉洞は、日本三大鍾乳洞の一つ。（残り二つは、高知県と山口県にある。全て制覇してやるっ！） 去年本州に来た時にも行きたいと思っていたが、願い叶わずだっただけに超たのしみ☆
洞窟内は、おお寒いっ！ 外気は、２５度。洞窟内は、一番奥でなんと１１度！ 出口付近は、だんだん寒さで膝が痛くなっていた位だった。 ここの一番の魅力は、地底湖の透明度。 なんと１２０m以上というから驚き☆ これは、世界でも１、２を争う透明度らしい。たしかに湖を覗き込むとどこまでも下へ下へ続いているのがはっきりと見通せる。透明な床の展望台から下を眺めているような感じ。ちょっと怖い。 ぐるっと見て回るのに小一時間程かかった。 大きさはあったが、部分的に壊れている石筍が多くみられたり、つらら上のものも思ったよりも少し少なく感じた。 地中海のサルディーニャ島の鍾乳洞はその点最高だった。 でも確実に見応えはあるので、岩手に来たらぜひ立ち寄ってね。
洞窟をでた時は、熱帯植物園に入園するときみたいだった。いつもの逆。なにやら香ばしいいい香りが、、いわの塩焼き！ 身もふんわり柔らかく、炭の香ばしい香りと、甘みが感じられる。 おいしかったー。
次の目的地は、浄土ヶ浜。 奇岩がならぶ美しい浜らしい。 またまた細いうねうね山道を下り、のぼりでようやく到着。 有名な観光地、土曜日なので人もかなり多い。残念なのが、天気。 あいにくのどんより曇り空で、もし青空だったらさぞ美しかっただろうけど、、、 それにしても、白い石と海に浮かぶ岩の島々、岩からにょきにょき生えている松。 絵に描いたような美しい浜辺。 水は、なかなか透明度もあり、積丹のようにとても澄んだグリーンブルー。 私は、なぜかすごく日本らしい浜だな〜と感動しました。たぶん松の木のせいかな。
浄土ヶ浜からの目的地は、遠野。昔話や日本の原風景が残るのどかな所らしく、いつか行ってみたかった。 遠野まので道のりの海岸線も美しかった。途中の細い山道の峠は、深い霧で覆われていて、なんともミステリアスだった。しかし、山の頂上で雲がぱっとなくなり、遠野につくととてもきれいな夕日が広がっていた。 夕日はどんな風景も美しく変えるが、田んぼや茅葺き屋根、瓦屋根のいなか風景をさらに美しくする。
そんなこんなで、今日の目的地の遠野に無事到着。 スーパーで野菜と安かったステーキ肉をゲットし晩ご飯、宿をとるために道の駅に。 調理を開始すると、となりで車泊してるおじさんが、話かけてくれた。 おじさんは、釣りが大好きでよく、やまめやいわなを釣りに遠野にくるらしい。 おじさんは、一度いなくなり、手にやまめといわなを持って来てくれた！！ やったー！ おじさんありがとう☆ これは、明日の朝おいしく頂く事にします♥