洞窟観音

Kannon Dokutsu - Cave of Avalokitesvara - Cave Guan Yin


Useful Information

Location: Takasaki City.
(36.304722, 138.988058)
Open: APR to 15-DEC daily 10-15, last entry 14:30.
16-DEC to MAR .
[2021]
Fee: APR to 15-DEC:
Adults JPY 800, Children JPY 400, Children (0-5) free.
Groups (20+): Adults JPY 500, Children JPY 300.
16-DEC to MAR:
Adults JPY 600, Children JPY 350, Children (0-5) free.
Groups (20+): Adults JPY 500, Children JPY 300.
Includes entry to Tokumeien and Yamatoku Memorial Hall, no separate ticket available.
[2021]
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=450 m, T=17 °C.
Guided tours: self guided, L=400 m, D=50 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography:
Address: Cave Kannon-Yamato Ward Memorial, 山徳記念館, 2857 Ishiharamachi, Takasaki, Gunma 370-0864, Tel: +81-27-323-3766, Fax: +81-27-322-5025. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1919 cave dug by hand.
1964 Tokuzo Yamada passed away, work on cave ended.

Description

洞窟観音 (Kannon’s Cave) in Takasaki is a sort of cave replica created in 50 years manual work using only pickaxes and shovels. The inside was sculpted to resemble a landscape with mountains and valleys. The cave is decorated with 39 sculptures, depicting Avalokitesvara and others, which are decorated on altar like structure or in niches. The sculptures were created by Rakuzan Takahashi who spent his whole life for this work. Some of the Kannon statues took a year to complete.

Tokuzo Yamada made a fortune as a merchant for dry goods and kimonos at a young age. He devoted his life to this project, investing all of his personal wealth in order to promote tourism in Takasaki. He had the idea that the visit to Cave Kannon would be as beneficial as a visit to a temple. He had a deep knowledge of design and was actively involved in the design of the stone statues.

In Buddhist painting, Kannon is usually depicted with a background, such as on a cloud or a rock, in the mountains or near a waterfall. The idea was to create such a background for each sculpture. The background for each Kannon statue was carefully created by hand using lava and Sambaishi stone. The cave was originally planned to be 800 m long, but the Itabana Formation was very hard and made digging very difficult. When Tokuzo Yamada died in 1964, the work ended with a length of 450 m. About 400 m are completed and accessible for the visitors, its possible to see 32 of the statues. Areas which are not open to the public can be seen during the special tours held occasionally.

Japan has a sort of Pilgrimage tradition, where 33 temples with Kannon statues are visited. It is not necessary to do this in a certain order or all at once, so it is quite relaxed to do such a pilgrimage. The ide of Tokuzo Yamada was to provide 33 temples with Kannon statues in this cave. When visitors walk through Doukutsu Kannon, they receive the same blessings as the act of making a pilgrimage through the 33 shrines.

During the World War II, Tokuzo Yamada offered his cave to the military as a civilian bomb shelter. For the use as a bomb shelter for the 4,000 people of Takasaki, he built several reservoirs, wells, warehouses, and generator rooms in the partly constructed cave. According to surviving communication between Tokuzo and powerful military officers, his efforts were honoured by the military, and Doukutsu Kannon was declared a “model civilian bomb shelter.”