All About Okinawa

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If you want real adventure, visit some of the caves in southern Okinawa. They were used as fortifications of defense by the Japanese military or as hiding places for civilians during World War II.

First Stop -- Futenma Shrine is located between Camp Foster's Gate 2 and the Futenma Housing Gate off of Route 330. Behind the shrine is a cave where many local people come to pray and leave offerings ranging from incense to food to items that can be purchased at a shop just outside the shrine. Your tour guide will explain Okinawan religions and a history of the shrine.

caves2.jpg - 33910 Bytes Second Stop -- Haebaru Culture Center, a small museum that houses a replica of the Army underground field hospital, artifacts, clothing worn by military and civilians alike, and farming tools among other interesting items. This is located near the Himeyuri Peace Museum/Memorial Park on Route 331

caves3.jpg - 39137 Bytes Third Stop -- Small bats flitted in the Itokazu cave in Tamagusuku fortification as our flashlights danced on the cave walls. Dark, muddy and a little slippery, this cave was used by around 1,000 people who sought refuge in it during the war. There is another exit, but only brave souls should try it as it is extremely muddy. Tamagusuku is located off of Hwy 48.

Fourth Stop -- Todoroki Cave/Shrine, where an Okinawan man put up his own money and two months of his time to build concrete steps so that it would be easier for visitors to view the cave. Inside, a man-made well still offers fresh water that is rumored to be pure enough to drink. There is a good sized pool of water towards the back of the cave and supposedly, if you wade through the waist high water and walk about two and half miles, you'll reach the Cave of the Virgins on the other end. It's located near Ihara, off off Hwy 223.

caves4.jpg - 35265 Bytes Fifth Stop -- The Gushichan Cave Fortification in Gushican (off Hwy 331 near Hwy 76). Several pillboxes are cemented shut, but one is still open to go into and look out the small square "window" at the area below. Pieces of broken pottery still sit in the pillbox and the nearby caves. The cave you enter has a square area made up of a wall about three feet high, just inside the entrance. This was used as a guard post. As you walk further into the natural cave, you'll see man-made tunnels dug into the coral that led to another entrance and a room off the side that was used by the commanding officers. An oblong area cut into the rock wall of this room is thought to have been used as a shrine.

caves5.jpg - 27117 Bytes This was a tour I took available from Schilling Rec Center, but you could probably find the caves on your own with the above directions/descriptions and asking for better directions. I highly recommend this for adults only, as there is a lot of climbing up and down, over rocks that are sometimes not very steady, and in caves with low ceilings and lots of slippery mud. Cotton gloves, old clothes and a large flashlight are also highly recommended. If you have hiking boots, wear them. Bring a picnic lunch and some yen if you want to buy beverages at vending machines that are at some of the stops. The tour costs just $10 and runs from 8:30-4:00 p.m. Call Schilling at 634-4322 for the next coral cave tour date.