Papua’s Japanese Cave for Tourism

Meta description: The name of the tourist site is Japanese Cave, but it is in Biak Numfor District, Papua. Why is that the case? What lies inside this historical site?

Slug: Japanese-cave-west-papua

When somebody mentions Raja Ampat, you will probably think of West Papua right away. It is indeed one of the most famous tourist attractions on the island. How about The Japanese Cave, though?

The Beauty of Nature in Papua and West Papua


As the easternmost island in the archipelago, Papua and West Papua consist of numerous sites which display the beauty of nature. If Bali is often dubbed as The Island of Gods, then these two provinces are dubbed as The Island of Paradise. It is also no wonder that one of the endemic animals on the island, cendrawasih, is also called the ‘bird of paradise’.

Japanese Cave is also one of the tourist sites which enriches Papua with its unique, magnificent beauty of nature. Why is it called ‘Japanese Cave’?

The Japanese Cave of Papua


Japanese Cave is located in Sumberker Village, Samofa Sub-district, Biak Numfor District, Papua. Its history is actually interesting. Ironically, the Japanese Cave is not as popular as other tourist sites on the island.

For starters, this cave is 45 meters deep and 180 meters long. Japanese Cave, however, is still popular among the residents in the district. Based on the Law and Human Rights’ Ministry’s Papua Regional Office’s website, each visitor must prepare IDR25,000 as an entry fee to the site.

Wawan Gunawan, Director of Tourism Destination Development of Regional II at The Ministry, claimed that the site is full of tourism potential. He even compared that to Vietnam’s War Remnants’ Museum.

In Japanese Cave, visitors can see hundreds of remnants dated back to World War II. These include light and heavy weapons with their bullets, helmets, planes, tanks, bombs, and swords. There were also other basic necessities back in the days, like foodware and medical equipment. They are all displayed in the front yard of the site.

According to Wawan Gunawan, visitors can also take the stairs into the actual cave. There are a number of huts for them to take a break or rest. In fact, local residents have always used that place to rest for a while. Visitors can see beautiful stalactites in the cave. Local residents have also consumed the water from the spring inside it for their daily needs.

It is evident that Japanese Cave was named that way in relation to Japan’s occupation in Indonesia during World War II before 1945. However, local residents call it by another name, which is ‘Abyab Binsari.’ It means “Grandma’s Cave.” Once upon a time, an old lady lived in and around the cave. She was always mysterious because when the Japanese soldiers arrived, she suddenly disappeared before them—without a trace.

The Japanese army arrived on Biak Island in 1943, about a couple of years before the Declaration of Independence of Indonesia on August 17, 1945. They brought ten thousand soldiers, whom they posted to several areas in Biak Numfrok. The areas in the district included the (Japanese) cave, North Biak Sub-district, West Biak Sub-district, East Biak Sub-district, and also Ambropen Sub-forest.

While the Japanese army was in the area, they built fortresses on the coasts, forests, and also caves. The reason this particular cave is named Japanese Cave is that back then, the cave had served as their logistic center and hideout. Wawan Gunawan explained that Colonel Kuzume Naoyuki was stationed at the site and three thousand personnel under his command.

However, the hideout did not last long. On June 7, 1944, General Douglas McArthurt and his troops of Alliance discovered that cave. They dropped bombs on the fuel drums on the cave. The entire Japanese squad and more had been killed that day.

In 1980, this cave was designated as one of the tourist attractions in Papua.

The Importance of The Javanese Cave For Papua’s Tourism Promotion

The Japanese Cave has been on the list of suggestions from the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry to strengthen many tourist sites in Biak Numfor District, Papua. If this historical cave attracts more visitors, it can help revive the economy, which will support the locals.

Oni Dangeubun, the head of the Biak Numfor District Tourism Office, was grateful for the ministry’s commitment to supporting the tourism and creative economical development in Biak Numfor District. Oni Dangeubun stated that in December 2019, his office planned to propose the Javanese Cave to be included in the list of one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

Not only by the local tourists, but Japanese Cave has also been visited by Japanese tourists. For this, Herry Ario Naap, the head of Biak Numfor District, expected a possible direct flight from Japan to Indonesia.

All in all, it is always important to look back on past history, no matter how bleak. As one of the tourist attractions in Papua, Japanese Cave does not only offer a history lesson. Hopefully, the lesson can also teach both countries the importance of preserving peace and mutual cooperation for the betterment of humanity.