Shitodo Cave

The cave where a bird saved a warlord's life

By Cathy Cawood   Jul 23, 2018 - 1 min read

If you follow a narrow path bordered with small statues and stone lanterns through the trees up the hillside, you will find a cool, mossy cave with a tiny waterfall and many small statues.

After losing a battle against the Heike clan, Genji general Yoritomo Minamoto fled and hid in this cave in Yugawara. When pursuers came to search the cave, a bird flew out, and the pursuers assumed the cave was empty, so they didn't search it after all. After this close call Minamoto went in to found the Kamakura Shogunate.

I do love a place with a story! This story took place in 1180, which is about 840 years ago. This interesting place is completely un-touristy. There are no souvenir shops or English signs. There is just the path, the cave, the waterfall and the statues. It all has a half-forgotten feeling to it, which for me is a large part of its charm.

The climb only takes about 20 minutes from the car park which is on the far side of the tunnel.

Getting there

Take the bus for Moto-Hakone from Yugawara Station and get off at “Shitodo-no-Iwaya Entrance”. From the bus stop it is a 10 minute walk. If you are driving, there is plenty of space for parking.

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Cathy Cawood

Cathy Cawood @Cathy Cawood

I fell in love with Japan long before I came here in 2003 to teach English, and it has proved to be a lasting romance.  I love the history, the traditional architecture, the food, the strange and sometimes ridiculous contrasts, and the beautiful countryside. I lived in Shiga prefecture for one year, and in Kyoto for nine years, and now I live in Machida in Tokyo. I've traveled a little in Japan, but not nearly as much as I'd like to. I like traveling by train, but my favorite way to travel is bicycle.