Chiiwa-kyo is located in Shinshiro City, Aichi Prefecture. It is a range of gorges spanning four kilometers in the upper reaches of the Chiiwa River, a tributary of the Ure River. Situated in the Tenryu-Okumikawa Quasi-National Park, this area has many steep and rocky hills and mountains, and is therefore also known as a mecca of free climbing (although you need to be careful not to disturb your surroundings because these rocky mountains are protected by law). You can see a Japan’s natural beauty here.
The highlight of Chiiwa-kyo is the 670m. Mt. Chiiwa, which has a lot of caves, large and small, but sometimes we need to climb almost vertically to reach some of them.
By the way, the kanji character representing a woman’s breast is used for “chi” of Chiiwa-kyo, and it is said this is because a breast-like lump of stalactite is hanging from the ceiling of the largest cave on Mt. Chiiwa. Legend has it that a starved child of a traveller survived by drinking the dew dripping from the breast-like rock.
I visited there on a sunny day in May 2016 with my friend. After visiting several places in Horai Town, we got to Chiiwa-kyo in the afternoon. We parked the car in the narrowest parking space I’ve ever seen and started walking.
The ground we walked on was not made up of normal soil but of bedrock. It was a large river-bed, seemingly consisting of one piece of flat smooth bedrock. There was a stream in which very clear water flowed, forming interesting features like small waterfalls and rapids everywhere.
After walking in the woods for fifteen minutes, we arrived at the foot of the cliff, which stood dauntingly in front of us. My friend wanted to climb, but unfortunately I was already very tired by then from walking all day long.
Furthermore, the majestic presence of the cliff was enough to discourage me, and I didn’t want to die. I said to him, “I can’t go.” So he told me to wait there. The place where I was waiting was tranquil, being surrounded by lush dense woods.
However, my friend returned 30 minutes later, saying “that was too high.” After all that, we could not conquer the cliff that day. Nevertheless, I was, in a way, satisfied because I could relax in the rich natural environment with its almost therapeutic-like healing qualities.
Several days later, I talked with a woman from the local tourist information center in Shinshiro City. She said to me that climbing the cliff was actually not that hard if I put my mind to it. So maybe I was just overwhelmed by the look of it. Anyway, we certainly enjoyed that day and we came back to downtown Hamamatsu to satisfy our hunger with cold beer and yakitori.
Photographs: taken at Chiiwa-kyo, by Koji Ikuma, with Fuji X-T1
equipped with either Hexanon AR 35mm f2 or G. Zuiko Auto-S 40mm f1.4