February 13, 13 | Shuhei Miyashita
About 2 hours by car from Sapporo, in the southwest corner of Hokkaido, is the city of Date. There you can find the mysterious Nyoro Nyoro Ootaki caves, surrounded by mountains in an especially snow-heavy area…you never know what you’ll find inside.
In -9 degree whether, so cold the snow sparkled, we first decided to head to the Ootaki regional outdoor administration, Ootaki Outdoor Adventures (OOA). As I was going for research purposes, I did not want to trespass on my way to the caves, nor did I want to bother any of the local residents by parking my car in the wrong place. So on this visit, I arranged to have a tour guide to show me the way. My guide, Fumiaki Sakai, runs the program with the cooperation of the Ootaki residents.
The trek to the cave takes about 40 minutes, so we strapped on our snow shoes and headed out. Along the way we could enjoy the beautifully clear water running down the valley, and the volcanic rock formations. But with a vigorous walk through the snow, even cold temperatures didn’t keep us from being sweaty by the time we arrived at the caves.
▲ Without snowshoes, we would have been waist-deep in snow with every new step.
▲ We could hear the sound of crunching snow as we trekked through the powder-covered path.
▲ When it came to going downhill at one point, we used empty rice bags to slide down easily. (Maybe a bit of a nostalgic image for Hokkaido natives)
Finally we arrived at the caves. They certainly were mysterious looking!
In minus 3 to 5 degree temperatures, these seemingly inverted icicles form, looking a bit like bamboo shoots. For that reason, they’re called “kori takenoko” (ice bamboo shoots). With about 5,000 ice stalagmites (and, in Japanese terms, an area equivalent to 100 tatami mats), this cave is the largest of its type in Japan. I was so mesmerized by the ice that I momentarily forgot that I had come for research. Sakai san informed me that the cave was used by Ainu people and revealed a lot about their history. (For more information about the Ainu and the Nyoro Nyoro cave, we recommend trying the tour!)
Taking it’s inspiration from the Kori Takenoko, the tour is called the Nyoro Nyoro tour. ‘Nyoro nyoro’ is a Japanese mimetic word that describes something with a feeling of slipping and sliding, much like the stalagmites in the cave.) If you get the chance, I recommend giving this adventure tour a try!
Hunting for Kori Takenoko in the Mysterious Caves of Ootaki
(AKA Nyoro Nyoro Tour)
Available from early January to late March
Tour Times : ① 9:00～12:00 ②13:30～16:30
Tour Fees: Adults 4,800 Yen Children (Elementary age or younger) 2,000 Yen
(Fee includes consumption tax, insurance, sweets and tea)
Snow equipment, boots, hats, and gloves are necessary (Rentals available)
Ootaki Outdoor Adventures
Address: 北海道伊達市大滝区本町17-3 〒052-0301
Telephone : 0142-68-5180（同FAX）
( Hokkaido Likers – Miyashita )