Step away from the mainstream and discover the mysterious side of Japan.

Over the years, our Japanese-language reporters have been travelling around the country, exploring hidden gems off the well-worn tourist path that are usually only enjoyed by locals.

After stumbling on finds that include a giant yokai statue and a peculiar stop with severed heads, today we bring you yet another unique spot for adventurous travellers, and this one is located in Nara Prefecture.

▼ Our destination today is a place called Tenkawa Village in Nara’s mountainous Yoshino region.

Tenkawa Village is surrounded by nature and mountains, and many people like to visit for outdoor activities such as camping. One of the most popular things to do here, though, is a trip to the nearby Goyomatsu limestone cave, the highlight of which is the unusual form of transport used to get you there.

▼ Tickets can be purchased here, with the entrance fee to the cave costing 450 yen (US$4.16).

Using the parking lot costs an extra 500 yen, which goes towards the “Ground Water Facility Cooperation Fund”, and to get up to the cave, you’ll need to purchase a ticket on the monorail, which costs 400 yen for the fare up and 200 yen for the fare down.

▼ And when we say “monorail”, we mean this:

Our reporter Great Muromachi was keen to go on this unusual journey, so after buying his tickets at the reception, he went up to the landing and prepared himself for the trip on the trolley train known as the monorail. It’s a rickety trip uphill through a forest, so everybody on board is required to wear helmets for safety. 

The uncovered vehicle looked more like a roller coaster than a monorail, but with no seatbelts on board, this seemed slightly more frightening. Still, there was no turning back now, so Muromachi hopped in and waited for the driver to board and start the motor.

When the ride started, our Great Muromachi didn’t look so great at all. The angle of the journey was much steeper than he expected, and with no seat belt, all he could do was hold onto the metal rail in front of him to feel secure.

He made the mistake of looking behind him to see what the view looked like, but as soon as he did, he whipped his head around again.

▼ The view was so steep he swore to never look back again.

Muromachi should’ve known better, really, as he’d already seen the angle of the trolley train before he boarded it.

As the ride progressed, Muromachi gradually grew more comfortable, and was actually able to enjoy the beautiful forest as the ride rambled by.

After about five minutes, they reached the top, and Muromachi was grateful that the weather held out long enough so that he didn’t have to use the umbrella, which was kindly provided for passengers.

Stepping off the ride, Muromachi entered the cave, with a local guide leading the way for the group.

With numerous stalactites that have grown over thousands of years, or even tens of thousands of years, the cave is like a natural work of art.

The 200-metre (650-foot) long cave is illuminated inside, with a number of interesting features that the guide will readily point out to visitors.

After the cave tour, it was time to return to the monorail for the journey back down the mountain. As the trolley car can’t be turned around, passengers ride backwards on the way down, which is both terrifying and thrilling at the same time.

Once you’ve made it safely back down the slope, there’s another place you shouldn’t miss out on visiting: Gorogoro Mizu.

Gorogoro Mizu is a natural spring set in a forest where residents come to collect free water in gourd-shaped bottles. The water here is so good it’s been selected as one of Japan’s top 100 famous waters.

So there you have it – a journey off the beaten path to a cave up a steep slope on a thrilling monorail. This has to be one of the most unique spots to visit in Japan, but if you’re still up for some more adventure, don’t forget to make time for a trip across a river in the self-operated Edo-period cable car nearby.

Park information

Goyomatsu Limestone Cave / 五代松鍾乳洞
Address:Nara-ken, Yoshino-gun, Tenkawa, Dorogawa
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m.-3:50 p.m.
Closed on Wednesdays and temporarily closed during periods of rain and/or storms, and closed all winter.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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