Carved by monks over a span of 500 years, the Taya caves are an overlooked but excellent excursion from almost anywhere in Kanagawa or Tokyo. They make for a great day trip regardless of weather. The shrine sits about thirty minutes by foot from Ofuna station. The caverns are all hand carved and not natural, but they are a lot more extensive that I imagined. We spent the better part of an hour and a half exploring the passageways, altars and carvings of this soft walled subterranean work of art and dedication.
You light candles as your light source and use these to bring the details of the artwork out of the walls. There are incandescent bulbs throughout the tunnels, so don’t worry if your candle goes out, there are several sources of flame throughout the caves at various alters as well. I would love to experience these caverns without the incandescent lights though. It would make for an incredible experience, and as the cave was started around 1200, a bit more authentic. Some of the higher carvings might warrant a flashlight to get a detailed look, by the way.
One of my favorite parts of the shrine is a small circular spot with a fountain flowing to the right of a small alter and carvings of turtles and birds that have held up phenomenally. It is amazing that these carvings have stayed intact throughout the years in the damp cave. I’m no geologist, but the walls seemed to me to be nothing more than clay and dirt.
There were several long tunnels that stretched far beyond the light of a candle. They were partially blocked, so not open to tourists however. I haven’t been able to find any additional information out about them, but will update here if I do.
One note: I learned after leaving that no photos are allowed in the cave. The carvings and tunnels are best enjoyed by candlelight and not through a lens in any case.