- 4 min read

Rokando Cave

Treasure in the depths

Iwate is home to many cultural and natural treasures, yet one of its best caves, Rokando still remains a mystery to many.

The cave is tucked deep inside the Iwate countryside in Sumita-cho, South East Iwate, and is accessible one minute on foot from Kamiarisu station on the JR Kamaishi Line, or by road. The local train ride from JR Hanamaki station or JR Shinhanamaki station (accessible by the JR Tohoku Shinkansen line with direct connections to Tokyo station) passes through an area of outstanding scenic beauty with links to Iwate’s folklore traditions, and makes for an enjoyable and relaxing journey.

Rokando cave visitor center is well equipped to cater for the hungry traveler. There are a range of excellent meals prepared by local staff using locally grown produce. I enjoyed a delicious lunchbox complete with a bowl of hot soba. If you are vegetarian or vegan, there is food available such as vegetables or soba to fit your needs.

Be warned; Rokando is not tame and is well suited to visitors who wish to visit a natural monument that is off the beaten track. The width and height of the cave tunnel vary considerably and it is wet inside, hence visitors are required to don a helmet, water-resistant jacket and rubber boots, all of which are provided on site.

The cave entrance is accessed via Kazakoibashi (Kazakoi bridge) that spans the upper reaches of the fast flowing Kesengawa (Kesen river). Enjoy the vista of forest covered mountains and river rapids (the river was a site of gold prospecting in times past), before ducking down into the narrow cave entrance. The entrance tunnel veers sharply to the right and down into the main cave network.

The sound of running water is soon heard. In fact, Rokando has been etched out of the marble rock over hundreds of millions of years through the erosive action of groundwater. Electrical lighting inside of the cave enables visitors to enjoy the rock formations of the cave walls, while following a narrow, deeply cut channel of gently flowing azure water that winds through the depths.

Although the current known length of the cave is 3,635m, 880m of this is accessible to visitors. Be prepared to stoop down onto your knees and squeeze through narrow places as you make your way to the inner chamber. Your eyes will be greeted by many interesting sights on the way, from unfathomable rock formations to small waterfalls and even an attractive statue of Buddha.

Deep into the course, the deafening sound of rushing water can be heard all around. Stoop down into a small cavern and then under a rock arch to reveal the great treasure that lies in the inner chamber of Rokando cave, Ten no Iwado no Taki (Ten no Iwado waterfall). The 29 m waterfall, the highest subterranean waterfall in Japan, gushes from a crevice in the rock face into a pool below. In fact, this same crevice was recently discovered to be the entrance to a deeper cave network, only accessible by scaling the waterfall. The view of Ten no Iwado no Taki can be enjoyed from a stone deck positioned on the opposite side of the subterranean pool.

Once you have fully admired the noise and grandeur of the incessant, lace-like waterfall, it is time to make your way back to the entrance, but be careful not to slip! The total time required to make the journey to and from the waterfall is between one 1hr to 1hr 30 minutes depending on your pace.

Rokando makes a good start to explore the rest of the surrounding countryside and sites of interest in the Sumita area. An overnight stop in local accommodation, or a local farmhouse, is strongly recommended to take advantage of the high quality of local food and hospitality in clean, comfortable surroundings.

Opening times

  • 16th March – Beginning of November 08:30-16:30
  • Middle of November to 15th March 08:30-16:00

Entrance fee

  • Adults: ¥1,000
  • High school/junior high school students: ¥700
  • Elementary school students: ¥500

Getting there

By train, you can take the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shinhanamaki. Change at Shinhanamaki for the JR Kamaishi Line and disembark at Kamiarisu station.

By car, it's 90 mins from Kamaishi Highway Towa Interchange (Towa IC) / 2 mins from route 283 Rokando IC.

Was this article helpful?
Help us improve the site
Give Feedback

Join the discussion

Malcome Larcens 7 years ago
I just visited it last weekend, it is indeed very nice and rustic. The restaurant was closed, don't know if it was because of Obon or if it's for a longer period of time. It's well worth the trip.
James Forest 9 years ago
Oh gods. I havent been caving in years! It looks very nice!
Justin Velgus 9 years ago
Wow, I had no idea this existed! There are some great caves around Japan, but with my love of waterfalls and all things 'mysterious,' I am going to try to add this to the summer travel log around Tohoku!!
Valerie Kor 10 years ago
the waterfalls in the cave are just gorgeous!!

Thank you for your support!

Your feedback has been sent.