In Part 1 of the Iwafune Shrine blog post we introduced the rock ship of Iwafune Jinja, a story going back 1,500 years when the the enshrined deity Nigihayahi no Mikoto, the grandson of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, descended from the heavens down to Earth. Nigihayahi no Mikoto's mode of transport was a large 'ship'. After it had served its purpose the story tells that the ship turned in to a huge rock. The rock now sits firmly in place at Iwafune Shrine.
In Part 2 we introduced the Sacred Caves of Iwafune Jinja and ascended down to the first section. In the third part of this story we will go through the cave system and right through to the exit. To enter the caves we go down a set of metal steps.
In days past there weren't steps and entry was gained by climbing down a rope attached to an old cedar tree. Once at the bottom of the steps we cross a wooden narrow bridge and follow the route marked by painted white arrows (pictured right).
Pictured below, looking back you'll see how the huge megaliths hold each other in place. These rocks are called 'root rocks' and have not been shifted even by the Great Hanshin Earthquake, so although great care is required and caution, it is generally safe. Please follow all guidelines of the shrine and shrine staff when entering the cave system.
Taking the route left, as marked we come to the next section. Another wooden bridge and again the route takes us to the left.
Through to the next stage of the cave path and looking up (pictured below) there are two huge rocks firmly wedged in place to form a ceiling.
In the picture below we come to the most difficult part of the cave system as we must slide feet first through and down a narrow hole. The story goes that by passing through this hole your body is reborn!
Once through and down we will come to an open section where you can take a short rest before venturing on.
Over another bridge, into a darker part of the system and then we see the light again at the top of wooden steps.
Before exiting the cave the last section is quite dark with some climbing (including the largest rock in the caves), a small shrine is also situated here and usually candles are burning which offers some light and direction. Pictured below, after exiting the caves, ahead a bright red torii gate marks the end of the route.
Access - 9-19-1 Kisaichi, Katano City, Osaka
Tel: +81 72-891-2125
The nearest train station to Iwafune Shrine is Kisaichi Keihan, which can be reached by transferring to a local train at Hiratakashi on the Keihan mainline between Osaka and Kyoto. By car the shrine is on route 168. 9 Chome-19-1 Kisaichi, Katano, Osaka 576-0033.
Disclaimer - Entering the caves at Iwafune Shrine can be dangerous, extreme caution is required and HIDDEN PATHS takes no responsibility for any injuries or damages caused. Follow all guidelines of the shrine staff and notices. In 2014 there was a fatal fall in the caves, improvements were made for safety, such as widening the wooden bridges and filling some pits where water had accumulated but PLEASE BE CAREFUL!