Inspired to take photos while visiting magnificent nature. To Niimi, the city of limestone caves sparkling in rainbow colors

Journey around a mysterious cave, carved over eternity. A moment of relaxation at a photogenic winery and old house inn

Niimi City, located in the northwest part of Okayama Prefecture, is a mountain town surrounded by the Chugoku mountains. A karst plateau spreads to the south of the town, with nearly 200 limestone caves, large and small.

One of the representative spots is Makido cave. Nature’s magnificent art spreads through the entire 450 meter inner length, created over long years by rain and other water. Changes abound while going through the cave, from low ceilings that require you to bend over while walking, to a vast underground lake. Various stalactites and stalagmites create fantastic scenery, with features such as the “Tsu-ra-ra Seki” (Icicle Stone) and “Rim Stone” creating a vertible “Cave Museum.” The main locations are lit up by continually changing blue, green, and purple LEDs, truly a wonderful world. The name “Makido cave” comes from the poet Akiko Yosano, who described it as a “Cave(Do) Filled(Ki) with Magic(Ma)”

Makido cave

The temperature in the cave is always around 15°C (60°F). It is cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Makido cave
Makido cave

The “Go-ju No-to” (Five-story Tower) formation, which resembles a five-story Buddhist pagoda.

Makido cave

It is said that your wish will come true if you throw a coin in the “Sen-sui” spring.

Makido cave

A limestone caved formed by erosion from rainwater and groundwater. Water echoes in this quiet place.

Makido cave
Makido cave

“Yume No Kyu-den” (Dream Hall) underground lake.

Makido cave
Makido cave
Makido Cave Sightseeing Drive-In

At the Makido Cave Sightseeing Drive-In, located right next to Makido Cave, the local specialty, “Original Bakudan Candy” (200 yen each), a colorful ice candy with 8 different flavors such as strawberry and soda, is popular. There are only a few places in the prefecture that currently sell it, and many people visit just for this reason. Staff will open the packaging with scissors so that you can focus on enjoying it.

The entrance for Ikurado Cave, one of western Japan’s representative limestone caves, lies in the sheer cliffs along the Takahashi River, which soar 240 meters high. The beauty of the valley, looking like a painting, is visible as you cross a bridge over the river and enter the cave. Continue along the path, with a length of 1200 meters and an elevation difference of 90 meters, and countless stalactites appear, one after another, along with about 30 strange stones and oddly shaped rocks with names such as “Gin Sudare” (Silver Screen) and “Sui-i” (Water Clothes). The art of nature, made over eons, touches us deeply just by seeing it, and stimulates our adventourous spirit and curiosity. There are three waterfalls inside the cave, including the masterpiece Chi-jiku no Taki waterfall, the largest subterranean waterfall in Japan, boasting a maximum drop of 50 meters. From its echoing roar, and the size and scale that one would never think of as being in a cave, you will once again feel the majesty of nature.

Ikurado cave
Ikurado cave
Ikurado cave
Ikurado cave

Kogane Dendo (Golden Hall of Fame). Just before this are Chi-jiku no Taki waterfall, “Kin Sudare” (Gold Screen), and “Gin Sudare” (Silver Screen). At the fifth path junction, there is a shortcut to the exit.

Ikurado cave

“Seto no Umi” (Sea of Seto)

Ikurado cave
Ikurado cave

The gorgeous “Sandan-Kyo” (Three Gorges) ravine

Ikurado cave

“Chiku-rin” (Bamboo forest)

Ikurado cave

“Niji no Tani” (Rainbow Valley)

Ikurado cave

The waterfall behind this stalactite is called “Oto no Taki” (Sound Falls) because only the sound can be heard.

Ikurado cave

Footbath at the exit using water from the cave. The spring water feels good in the summer.

Ikurado cave

The Arisa no Miya marriage shrine in front of the footbath.

Approximately 30 minutes by car from the Niimi interchange, in the lush greenery between the mountains, is a lively winery that is acclaimed in Japan’s prospering wine scene. The winery’s name, “domaine,” is French, and they use a grape they cultivated themselves. From brewing to aging to bottling, they are a winery that produces wine from start to finish. In the limestone soils spreading around Niimi City’s Tetsu-cho area, in the climate with warm and cool weather, and in the amount of sunshine, etc., the grapes are cultivated in a rare environment similar to France’s signature terrior, allowing them to devote themselves to continually pushing forward the art of wine making.

There is also a cafe at the winery, and you can spend a luxurious time there, enjoying wine and cuisine while looking out over the vast vineyards. The main courses are prepared from local ingredients, carefully selected by the chef himself, alongside freshly harvested vegetables from the winery’s gardens. The powerful flavors, nutured by the climate of Niimi, resonate with the wine, which breathes in the terrior.

domaine tetta
domaine tetta
domaine tetta

A panda statue, said to have come out of the soil when this abandoned farmland was being revitalized as vineyards, greets us.

domaine tetta
domaine tetta
domaine tetta
domaine tetta
domaine tetta
domaine tetta

Weekday only Daily Plate Lunch for 1080 yen (until 14:00) and glass wine for 600 yen. On weekends, a Lunch Plate with appetizer, main dish, and dessert is available (2700 yen) (reservation required). During the winter (scheduled for January to end of February), only wine tasting/sales, drinks, and dessert are available (resumption of lunch service may be postponed to mid-March; please inquire).

domaine tetta

Daily Dessert, from 500 yen

domaine tetta
domaine tetta
domaine tetta

The winery designer is Wonderwall’s Masamichi Katayama, a global interior designer. From the cafe, you can see the underground brewing area, decorated with modern art.

domaine tetta

Wine starts at 2916 yen. The striking labels are designed art director Naomi Hirabayashi.

domaine tetta

Representative Ryuta Takahashi says, “I hope that we’ll become a new landmark in Niimi where people gather” and that they are actively tackling new experiments.

Enjoy living life during your stay at this one-day-one-guest traditional guest house in a rural area of Niimi, Okayama. Upon opening the door, 100 years of history and emotion spread out before you, and you are warmly greeted by the Suzuki couple, overflowing with smiles. Meals take place in the hearth room, set with heavy support beams and pillars. Regional cuisine with local blessings, made from fresh seasonal and wild vegetables and sticky “hime no mochi” (princess mochi) rice is not only delicious, but refreshes both your body and soul. The main course is local brand and Chiya beef, charcoal grilled. The thick and finely marbled Chiya beef is beautifully grilled and crisped right before your eyes. By experiencing everyday life in Niimi, spending time as if you are living there, visitor’s hearts are slowly unwound and opened up.

Chiya Outdoor House
Chiya Outdoor House
Chiya Outdoor House
Chiya Outdoor House
Chiya Outdoor House

A dirt floor gallery making use of an old cow barn, here you can glimpse the history of the inn and the Chiya area.

Chiya Outdoor House
Chiya Outdoor House
Chiya Outdoor House
Chiya Outdoor House
Chiya Outdoor House

Ken-chin soup, a local cuisine from Niimi.

Chiya Outdoor House

Proprieter Akihiro Suzuki is also familiar with caving, and will guide interested parties to local caverns (reservation required, 3000 yen per pair). Hands-on agriculture and Mrs. Suzuki’s makeup lessons are also popular.

Chiya Outdoor House

On days with no overnight guests, it is also possible to come for just the meal (4400 yen per person, reservation up to one week in advance)

Summer nights are also beautifully illuminted by fireflies, emblematic of Japanese summers. Nature-rich Niimi City, source of the Takahashi River, has many places where you can appreciate fireflies. The highlight though, is the dance of the “gold fireflies”, which are a rare type of terrestrial firefly in Japan and designated as a natural treasure of Okayama Prefecture. These small fireflies, named for the golden light that they display, are known as “Hime Botaru” (Princess Fireflies) in Japanese. Their approximately one second light-up interval is short, but in a darkened forest that has gone quiet, their star-like glittering will take your breath away. This fanastic sight can only be seen for about 10 days in early June. Tourists from all over the world are visiting to get a glance at these golden firefly’s beautiful, ephemeral dance, said to be like a blink of life.

Golden fireflies (Rashomon)
Golden fireflies (Rashomon)

A scene at Rashomon, a nationally designated natural treasure, where you can see a 40 meter high limestone arch and rare brophytes (mosses). Gold firefly viewing time is from sunset to 21:00, and the peak is around 19:45 to 21:00. They can be seen from the promenade immediately next to the parking lot.

For sightseeing in Niimi, arriving and departing from JR Niimi station via a reserved sightseeing taxi is convenient. For reservations and inquiries, please call the Niimi City Tourist Association (Tel: +81-867-88-8154 E-mail: n_kankouk@yahoo.co.jp *Reservations by e-mail can be done in English)
http://niimi.gr.jp/info/info_detail/index/29.html

(This information is as of November 2018)

Makido cave
Address
2276-2 Toyonaga-akouma, Niimi City, Okayama [Map]
TEL
+81-867-74-3100
Open
8:30-17:00 (entrance is until 16:30)
Closed
None
Parking
150 spots (large bus parking available)
Price
1000 yen for high school students and older, 800 yen for junior high school students, 500 yen for elementary school students, no charge for preschoolers and below
Access
About 20 minutes’ drive from the Chugoku motorway / Hokubo interchange, or About 30 minutes’ ride on taxi from JR Niimi Station.
Credit card
Not accepted
URL
Website

MAP

Makido Cave Sightseeing Drive-In
Address
2377 Toyonaga-akouma, Niimi City, Okayama [Map]
TEL
+81-867-74-2200
Open
9:00~17:00
Closed
Irregular closing days (closed for winter from the end of November to the middle of March)
Seats
48
Parking
60
Access
About 20 minutes’ drive from the Chugoku motorway / Hokubo interchange, or About 30 minutes’ ride on taxi from JR Niimi Station.
Credit card
Not accepted
URL
Website

MAP

Ikurado cave
Address
409 Ikura, Niimi City, Okayama [Map]
TEL
+81-867-75-2224
Open
8:30-17:00 (entrance is until 16:30)
Closed
None
Parking
300
Price
1000 yen for high school students and older, 800 yen for junior high school students, 500 yen for elementary school students
Access
About 20 minutes’ drive from the Chugoku motorway / Niimi interchange, or About 30 minutes’ ride on taxi from JR Niimi Station.
Credit card
Not accepted
URL
Website

MAP

domaine tetta
Address
3136 Tettacho Yato, Niimi City, Okayama [Map]
TEL
+81-867-96-3658
Open
11:00~16:00
Closed
Monday and Tuesday (closed on holidays)
Seats
24
Parking
8
Access
About30 minutes’ drive from the Chugoku motorway / Niimi interchange, or About 20 minutes’ ride on taxi from JR Niimi Station.
Credit card
Not accepted
URL
Website

MAP

Chiya Outdoor House
Address
1005 Chiya-hanami, Niimi City, Okyama [Map]
TEL
+81-867-77-2272
Open
IN15:00 OUT10:00
Parking
3
Price
From 8800 yen for adults, 5500 yen for children 4 years old to elementary school (one night, two meals). In winter, heating cost is +400 yen per person.
Access
About30 minutes’ drive from the Chugoku motorway / Niimi interchange, or About 40 minutes’ ride on taxi from JR Niimi Station.
Credit card
Not accepted
URL
Website

MAP

Golden fireflies (Rashomon)
Address
Kusama, Niimi City [Map]
TEL
+81-867-72-6136(Niimi Commerce and Tourism Division)
Open
About 10 days in early July (sunset to 21:00)
Parking
25
Access
About30 minutes’ drive from the Chugoku motorway / Niimi interchange, or About 40 minutes’ ride on taxi from JR Niimi Station.
URL
Website

MAP

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