The Mikurodo and Shinmeikutsu caves, where famed priest Kukai was involved in Buddhism training, in Muroto, Kochi Prefecture, will be made accessible as early as in December. (Video by Masatoshi Kasahara)

MUROTO, Kochi Prefecture--Two caves here where the famed priest Kukai (774-835) is said to have experienced a spiritual awakening will be opened to Buddhist priests and tourists for the first time in many years.

Starting in December at the earliest, visitors will be allowed to enter the Mikurodo and Shinmeikutsu caverns in the Murotomisaki-cho district, after both were closed off due to the danger of falling rocks.

This will be the first time that Mikurodo and Shinmeikutsu will be open to the public in three years and six years, respectively.

“I am sorry about having people wait so long,” said Muroto Mayor Kenji Komatsu. “But I am happy that the caves will be eventually accessible.”

Mikurodo in a cliff on the eastern side of Cape Muroto, along with Shinmeikutsu next to it, are well known as places where the young Kukai, also known as Kobo Daishi, was involved in Buddhism training 1,200 years ago.

The two caves are owned by private owners, and priests and pilgrims were previously allowed to enter the sacred locales.

But after a rock measuring 2.5 meters long and 50 centimeters wide fell in November 2015 likely due to rain erosion and other factors inside Mikurodo, the Muroto city government made the cavern inaccessible by installing a fence in front of it.

Shinmeikutsu had also been closed after a rockfall was reported in 2012.

The city received many requests from pilgrims and sightseers to make the caves accessible again after their closure.

“I want to view the scenery that Kukai saw,” one request said. Another simply said, “I want to enter the caverns.”

Although the municipality could not quickly develop ways to prevent falling rocks without spoiling the magnificent views inside the caves, it finally decided to install a temporary tent covered with metal mesh at their entrance after talks with the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Environment Ministry and other parties.

An official of the city’s education board called on those who plan to explore the caves to pay much attention to safety.

“People will be able to enter them on their own responsibility, but such individuals must at least wear hard hats,” the official said.

Yunyo Kawasaki, 24, a priest who visited Mikurodo from Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, on April 26, said she was moved by the landscape.

“Views from here are so touching that I felt as if I had come closer to Kukai,” Kawasaki said.

It is said that Kukai saw Venus flying into his mouth when he was spiritually awakened in the caves. After the mystical experience, he formed his Buddhist name--Kukai--as only “ku” (sky) and “kai” (ocean) could be seen from inside the caverns.

Mikurodo has been selected by the Environment Ministry as one of 100 locations where beautiful sounds can be heard for the sound of waves coming from the nearby sea.

“I am really happy that the caves where the name Kukai was developed will be made accessible,” said Kawasaki, referring to Muroto city’s recent decision. “I will definitely visit them.”