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Why Taya Caves is special ?
Taya Caves are adjacent to Josen-ji Temple and are located on the side of a hill. One story regarding the history of the caves is that the Hojo family excavated them in the mid-twelfth century for safekeeping of their possessions. It is believed that some members of the Shingon-sect had the caves expanded so that they could practice their esoteric/mystical rituals. Note the Buddhist drawings on the walls and ceiling which include some characters in Sanskrit. The dimensions of the caves are width one meter, length 1.5 kilometers and height two meters.
What to explore at Taya Caves?
From about the year 1200 to 1700, Shingon Buddhist monks gradually excavated this underground maze of tunnels as a site for spiritual training. You will be given a candle which you slip onto a wooden holder outside the entrance, and light at the candle inside the doorway. Damp, silent corridors lead to small, domed meditation chambers with walls and ceilings carved with fantastic creatures and Buddhist images, and on down to the spring room with a great turtle and birds carved on the walls. A small flashlight would be useful to see the images that candlelight doesn't reach.
How to get to Taya Caves?
Take the JR Yokosuka Line two stops north of Kamakura to Ofuna Station; take a bus bound for Totsuka Bus Center (No.72, the stop is across the bridge from the station, near the entrance to the Kannon temple); after about 8 minutes, get off at Dookutsu-mae bus stop (also known as the "Radon-no Onsen" stop); the temple is just to the right of the large radon spa building).
- Interesting Monk Caves
- Unique meditation caves
- Unique Buddhist Caves
- Very nice garden
- Special handle and light
1501 Taya-cho, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture
Tips for you
Taya caverns, on the grounds of Josenji temple, were carved into soft limestone cliffs by meditating monks between 1200 and 1700. Visitors are given a candle, which they affix to a special handle and light just inside the cave. There is electrical lighting throughout the cave, so the candle is more for "mood" and to allow visitors to more closely examine the intricate carvings on the cave walls. The carvings range from Buddhas and bodhisattvas to images from daily life in the period. Look for chambers containing 33 Kannon or the 12 Chinese zodiac. There are also chambers designed specifically for Zen meditation and group worship. At the lowest level is a spring (take some water from here to rub on a "sick" part of yourself for a cure) which flows into a "noiseless" river and eventually out to the temple grounds. In a couple of places in the caves barriers have been erected to protect visitors from potential rockfalls. This is new since the 3.11 Tohoku earthquake and while important for safety, does interfere a bit with viewing the cave's carvings. Temple staff ask visitors to refrain from photography inside the cave.