Kawanori cave (川乗鍾乳洞)

 In Mountain information

As promised, here are the information on the Kawanori cave (川乗鍾乳洞 – Kawanori-shōnyūdō) also called chōchin-ana (ちょうちん穴).

General information

Kawanori cave is located in Okutama (奥多摩) in Tōkyō prefecture. There are several caves in Okutama, but most of them have been transformed into touristic caves and Kurasawa cave (倉沢鍾乳洞) is forbidden. Kawanori is to my knowledge unfortunately the only cave in the area where you can enjoy caving.

The cave is small (in comparison with caves we can find in Europe) and quite narrow. But it is famous for a heart shape hole inside one of the galleries.

Kawanori cave no1 - purikura picture

It has two entrance connected by a narrow gallerie difficult to go through. This junction gallerie can be passed from the part 1 one of the cave (where there is the heart) to the part 2. After the heart, go down an almost vertical tunnel. You arrive at a junction with four tunnel. One going up (the one you came from), one on the right and two on the left. One of the tunnel on the left continues to the junction. You have to crawl in a narraw gallery which then becomes larger.

Kawanori cave no1 - crawling

Then the gallerie gets narrow again and you have to put yourself on the side to go through a not easy the 90° left turn.

Kawanori cave no1 and 2 connection pipe 2

You then reach a chimney going up. When you reach the roof and think you are in a deadend, you will see a tunnel going down in a 140° bend. You have to slide head first to go through. This is the tricky part of the junction tunnel. With my 1.80 meters it was impossible to go through. Not only it is a sharp bend, but the tunnel is very narrow in this section. My legs never took the turn. If you are too tall, I would advise you not to go for it. You will be in trouble if you get stuckked there. If you are short and you are able to go through, you will again reach a junction with several tunnels. One of the chimney going up reaches the second part of the cave.

Outings examples

Access from Tōkyō

To check for train schedules, use the following site (in English) : http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

Take a train on the Chuō line (中央線) from Shinjuku (新宿) station to Tachikawa (立川) and change for a train to Okutama on the Ōme line (青梅線). It will cost you 890¥. From there take a bus to Higashi-nippara (東日原) and get off at Kawanoribashi (川乗橋) bus stop. It costs 250¥ and takes about 20 minutes. You can check bus timetables on this website (in Japanese) http://www2.bus-navi.com/pc/index.php.

From the bus stop, pass the gate and follow the road in the Kawanori valley. After 30 minutes of walk, you will see on the right side of the road a wooden platform going down to a small trail following a fence in the woods and a blue hut at the bottom. Keep walking about a 100 meters on the road and you will see a larger trail, blocked by a chain, going down to the river.

Kawanori cave access - trail to the river 1

Follow this trail. At the next trail crossroad don’t take the one going down towards the river and which reaches a large flat area converted in a wild a camping ground (as of 2011).

Kawanori caves access - camping ground

If you go that way you will have to cross over rotted wooden bridges about to fall apart that I wouldn’t trust.

Kawanori cave access - 1st bridge

Instead keep walking straight on the trail in the forest, it will lead you to the river at a place where it is easy to cross over. On the other side you will see a big white rock a bit higher up in front of you (which is partially equiped for rock climbing).

Kawanori cave 2 access

If you follow it on the left side you will reach the entrance number 1 of the cave.

Kawanori cave 1 - entranceentering Kawanori cave no1 - 1

If you follow it on the right side you will reach the entrance number 2 of the cave.

Kawanori cave 2 - entrance 1Kawanori cave 2 - entrance 2


Maps covering the cave access are (the cave is not written on the map):
1/25000地形図、奥多摩湖、東京14号-3、 NI-54-25-14-3 (Okutamako, Tōkyō 14-3, NI-54-25-14-3)
1/25000地形図、武蔵日原、甲府1号-2、 NI-54-31-1-2 (Kumotori, Kōfu 14-3, NI-54-31-1-2)


Caving is an almost unknown activity in Japan. Don’t expect anything from rescue teams which are absolutely not prepared nor trained for interventions in such a specific environment. You are totally on your own. In addition to this, there are very very Japanese insurance covering this activity (classical outdoor or mountaineering insurance do not cover the activity, to the best my knowledge only jRO insurance covers it.). That said you should better not put yourself in a difficult situation and always choose the safest choice. If you are not sure, give up. Here precaution prevails.

The wooden bridges leading to the caves are completely rotten. I do not recommend to use them to cross the river. They can break at any time. Although troublesome, I recommend to ford the rivers.

The cave is inhabited by bats. Especially the second part. Normally harmless in Japan, a friend was bitten by a bat during our first exploration of the cave. After checking, it appears that in Japan bats do not carry rabies. In any case, if you are bitten, contact Japan Infectious Disease Surveillance Center (IDSC, 国立感染症研究所 感染症情報センター) and go and check a doctor immediately. Following doctor’s recommendation she took several injections by precaution. In addition to this, bats’ feces can be a vector of infectious disease. It is mandatory to wear gloves (I recommend to have surgical latex cloves under your regular gloves) and to avoid rubbing your eyes or your mouth with your hands.

Finally, avoid caving when heavy rain because of the risk of flooding in the galleries.

Check the weather forecast on the English page of the Japan Meteorological Agency : http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html

Again, there is no professional rescue in Japan with caving rescue skills. If you are victim of an accident you will have to rely on classic rescue : 119 for firefighters and 110 for the police. The following numbers can also be useful in case of emergency:

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