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Thursday, 9 November 2017

Okinawa World

Back to the Okinawa recaps (Masterpost here, if you want to see the other posts)! Okinawa World is an attraction located in Nanjo, in the south of mainland Okinawa. You could take bus 54 and 83 from Asahibashi station to Gyokusendo-mae bus stop, or you could drive there. My sister and I drove there (parking was free) and we found that to be really convenient.

Okinawa World basically has three sections: Gyokusendo caves, Habu park, and a cultural village. You can buy tickets for the sections that you want to go to, although if you go to the caves, you will have to buy the tickets for the cultural village because you'll have to pass through the village to get back to the entrance.

My sister and I got the tickets for the caves and the cultural village. We decided to pass on the Habu park because we decided we weren't that interested in snakes.

First stop: the cave!

Gyukusendo cave is a 5km long cave, although right now, only about 890m are open to the public. The longest cave in Japan is actually Akiyoshi cave in Yamaguchi, and I found that to be more interesting (then again I went with a bunch of talkative people), but this is pretty impressive in its own right.

At the entrance to the cave!

I will say that it was a lot easier to take photos in this cave, though. I remember it being extremely difficult in Akiyoshi.

The temperature in the cave is supposed to be around 21 degrees all year round, but it felt warmer than that. According to my sister, it felt more like 26 degrees, which was still cooler than the temperature above ground.

There were several points of interest, complete with signs. For things like the fossiled bones, the signs were really useful because I would not have noticed them otherwise. In fact, I still find it hard to see with the arrows!

I'm not too sure about the name of the stagmalite below, but I think it translates to something like "golden cup" and it's basically notable for being really big.

This vase has been covered with stalactites after being submerged for 5 years in the waters of the cave. We actually saw another vase undergoing the same process as we continued walking towards the exit.

There was a photo spot too!

There was a blue fountain too! The fountain didn't look like it was lighted to me, but my sister says it has to be, so if anyone knows why the water appears so blue and bright, please let me know! Any geography students reading this?

We actually took our picture at the entrance of the cave, and we got a small copy at the exit. Larger photos are available for sale as well.

After the cave, we decided to head through the village towards the entrance. The cultural village has different experiences and performances so you might want to plan your visit around them. The first area is basically a plant area and it felt like a lot of the plants came from Malaysia and other South East Asian countries.

And I had my Blue Seal ice-cream here! Blue Seal is ubiquitous in Okinawa, but for some reason I was always too full when we passed by a shop. So I took my chance and had the salted chinsuko flavour ice-cream and it was really good!

And the village:

Experiences available (all for an additional fee) include: Bingata studio (Okinawa traditional dyeing), Indigo dyeing studio, Weaving studio, Papermaking studio, Glass studio, Tea house, Kimono experience.

We actually planned to do the tea house, because I wanted my sister to experience Bukubuku tea, but there was an awful smell at the area. We asked around later, and it seems like there's a waterbuffalo living next to the village and its smell carried across. I would not recommend you have the tea here (assuming the smell is still here) and would recommend the shop near Shuri Castle instead.

Since we didn't do the tea, I managed to persuade my sister to try on the kimono and take a photo with me. According to my sister, it's the first and last time I'll ever get her in a kimono, which explains why I went overboard with the photos.

It costs 500 yen per person and each person can take photos with their phone. So for us, we took photos with a DSLR and a camera phone and could switch the poses for each.

They also sell the larger photos and since my sister claimed that she wouldn't wear a kimono again, I bought them. It's 1600 yen for both photos or 1100 yen for one photo, so I got both photos. I think the photos turned out really nicely too!

You can choose your own kimono, which I thought was fun. The staff were extremely nice as well, so if you're looking for a picture of yourself in an Okinawan kimono, this would be a good option too.

Please note that both this kimono experience and the one at the Ryukyu village only consists of the outer layer (although the Ryukyu village can let you have the full experience too) worn over your daily clothes. If you want the full experience, you might want to go somewhere else - Bene from Bene Fukuoka had a great experience on Miyakojima and her photos are absolutely beautiful! Unfortunately, I can't seem to find her English post, but here's a link to the French post if you want to check it out.

I took this photo because I thought the explanation was cute:

There's also a brewery at Okinawa World called Nanto Brewery. They make both beer and habu liquor. Habu liquor is basically awamori (Okinawa's sake) with a habu snake inside and my sister and I did not have the guts to try it. Perhaps next time?

According to the sign on this photo, they leave the poison in the snake when they put it in! But the alcohol dissolves the poison so the end-product isn't poisonous.

Overall, Okinawa World was a really fun place. A few things in the cultural area overlap with the Ryukyu village, but the caves provide a unique experience that you can't get elsewhere in Okinawa. If you're interested in finding out more about the place, here's a link to the official English site.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm well aware that these posts are extremely delayed. I'm back in Singapore, as my previous post indicated, but I'm planning to continue with the Okinawa recap before moving on to the last few days in Japan. If you'd like the order to be changed, just let me know via comments or email!

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