So you’ve come all the way to Kumamoto City and want to visit Reigando Cave—the cave where Miyamoto Musashi spent the final years of his life writing the Book of Five Rings―but you can’t figure out how to get there? Although it is located within the borders of Kumamoto City, it is located deep in the mountains to the west of the city and can be rather difficult to reach. There are a few options that will get you to Reigando, so we’ll introduce a couple here.
What to Bring
- Food & drink (there aren’t any convenience stores near Reigando)
- Cash (you’ll need a couple hundred yen per person to get into the temple, plus some coins for offerings inside the cave)
- Sneakers or hiking boots (the path to the cave is paved, but the rocks can be slippery and uneven, so wear something comfortable and sturdy)
- Save data on your phone – The cave is in a fairly remote area, and, depending on which cellular service you are using, you may not have service in certain areas. Remember to save bus schedules and maybe a map on your phone while you are in an area with service.
- If you take the bus, bring a book or something to read. It’s a long ride.
About Reigando Cave, Unganzenji Temple, and the Gohyakurakan
First, let’s talk a little bit about the history and surroundings of Reigando Cave. Reigando Cave is a shallow, natural cave in a mountainside on the western side of Mt. Kinpo in Kumamoto City. The cave has been a site of worship for centuries.
The cave is located on the grounds of Unganzenji Temple, and visitors need to enter through the temple to visit Reigando. Unganzenji itself is a very old Zen Buddhist temple founded in the 1300s by a priest named Toryo Eiyo.
Admission to the temple costs ¥300 yen for adults. Immediately after entering the temple, a few items related to Miyamoto Musashi are on display in a small building to the left. One of these is supposedly the actual wooden sword used by Miyamoto Musashi in a famous duel on Ganryujima Island. Continue down the pathway and you’ll discover hundreds of small seated statues covering the hillside. These are the Gohyakurakan (meaning “five-hundred disciples of Buddha”) and they were carved in the 1800s over a span of 24 years by a local merchant. Each statue was carved in different clothes and with different facial expressions. Many of the statues are headless; this happened in the late 1800s as part of an anti-Buddhist movement that destroyed Buddhist statues, temples, and other religious items related to Buddhism.
Past the statues, at the end of the path, lies Reigando Cave. Be careful as the steps up are very steep.
An enormous stone sticks up through the floorboards in the middle of the cave, and there is a small shrine at the rear. This stone is supposedly where Miyamoto Musashi meditated while living in this cave. Feel free to climb up and close your eyes and imagine what it was like 400 hundred years ago when Musashi was here.
The shrine houses a Kannon statue that supposedly washed ashore centuries ago.
If you look towards the ceiling, far above and slightly to the right of the shrine, you can maybe make out a faint carving of the three characters that make up the name Reigando: 霊巌洞 (the characters are written right to left).
As of 2021, there are big trees planted in front of the cave and blocking the view of the Ariake Sea. Evidence shows that these trees didn’t exist when Musashi was here, and hopefully they can be cut down soon to restore the pleasing view the cave once offered.
And now that you’ve learned all about the cave, let’s find out how to get here!
How to Get to Reigando Cave
The easiest way to get to Reigando Cave is by car, so if you have an international or Japanese license and either have your own car or a rental, you’ll have the easiest time getting here. Just pop this address in your preferred map app and follow the directions.
The road leading up to the shrine winds up the side of a hill, then turns off at a big statue of Miyamoto Musashi.
You can either park here and walk down to the temple (takes about 5 minutes or so), or turn right into the parking lot and take the road down on the left to the main temple parking area, which has enough spaces for around 10 cars.
Taxi is another convenient way to go, but will cost a pretty penny. Since the drive itself takes around 40 minutes one-way, you’ll need to hire the taxi for around 2 or 2.5 hours, which will cost around 10,000 to 15,000 yen. Some cabs downtown may not want to go so far out of town, so it may be best to ask someone at your hotel to reserve you a taxi to get to Reigando.
The bus to Reigando takes about an hour each way and there are only 6 buses per day (as of July 2021). At Sakuramachi Bus Terminal, take the U3-1 bus towards the Kawachi Onsen Center and get off at Iwato Kannon Iriguchi (岩戸観音入口). From the bus stop, it is another 20 minute walk uphill until you see the Musashi statue, then a little more of a walk downhill until you get to the temple.
There are actually a pretty decent number of people who take the bus, so it certainly is doable, but you’re going to spend a lot of time waiting. The bus ride to Reigando offers views over Kumamoto City and of lots of pretty rice terraces, so it is a good way to get a look at the Japanese countryside as well.
The area around Mt. Kinpo is popular with bikers, so it is possible to bike to Reigando, but you’re going to need a couple of hours and a proper bicycle and gear (no mama-charis!).
If you’ve got the motivation, Reigando is reachable on foot and takes about 2.5 hours from downtown Kumamoto. There are lots of great hiking trails around Mt. Kimpo that wind through mikan fields and rice farms, so if you’ve got plenty of time and enjoy a good hike, then walking to Reigando may be an enjoyable option for you.
Is There Anything Else Near Reigando?
Reigando is deep in the countryside, so while there isn’t a wealth of things to do, there are a couple places nearby and on the way that are worth checking out.
Kokopelli is a charming little restaurant located right next to Unganzenji Temple. They offer vegan/vegetarian options, speak English, and have really tasty curry.
Yuhoen Fruits Land
Yuhoen is a pick-your-own orchard and restaurant located on the way to Reigando. Depending on the season, you can pick a variety of fruits, including oranges, grapes, and strawberries.
Kusamakura Onsen Tensui
This hot spring facility is located about a 20-minute drive from Reigando and is the perfect place to relax in one of its outdoor baths overlooking the Ariake Sea.
You can drive almost the entire way to the top of Mt. Kinpo, where you’ll be able to enjoy spectacular views over Kumamoto City to the east and the Ariake Sea and Shimabara Peninsula in Nagasaki Prefecture to the west.
Honmyoji Temple & Kato Kiyomasa Statue
Honmyoji Temple is located just on the outskirts of the city part of Kumamoto City and is where you’ll find the grave of Kato Kiyomasa, first lord of the Kumamoto domain and builder of Kumamoto Castle.
Shimada Museum of Art
This small, private museum is located in a quiet residential area. The museum was founded by Matomi Shimada, a private collector of art and samurai memorabilia who amassed an impressive collection of items related to Miyamoto Musashi, many of which are on display here.
Reigando Cave at Unganzenji Temple
Hours: 8:00 – 17:00
Phone: 096-329-8854 (Japanese only)
Address: 589 Matsuo Hirayama, Nishi-ku, Kumamoto City 861-5282