Valley of Gangala: Feel the Beat of the Earth in the Mystical Okinawa Destination
Going on a Mystical Journey
Deep down south in Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan, there is a tourist spot called the Valley of Gangala, a place with multiple limestone caves. The name Gangala derives from the onomatopoeia (gangala galagala) they used to describe how it sounded when they threw a stone through a pit into the deep cave.
The scenery with layer upon layer of stalactites in the abyss of darkness reminds you of the eternally long period of time earth has gone through. The surrounding area is also of great historical value with many excavation sites of prehistoric artifacts.
Now let’s take a close look at the Valley of Gangala.
The first thing you will find here near the admission office is Cave Café, where you can take a rest while enjoying the refreshing and cool scenery inside the cave. Prehistoric shell artifacts and human bones from 20 thousand years ago excavated here have gained much attention recently.
In Okinawa, there has been discovery of other human bones of who are referred to as the “Minatogawa People”, similarly from about 20 thousand years ago. However, the relationship between Minatogawa People and the recent finds at Gangala have yet to be clarified and still being investigated.
Treasure Box of Life
You can enter the cave in a guided tour.
The limestone caves themselves and a huge banyan tree, which we will come back to later, make two major features here but there are also other things you should check out; this spot offers a great opportunity for you to see rare animals and plants which you can never come across in other parts of Japan.
For example, look at the giant bamboo in the photo.
It is said to be the world’s largest kind of bamboo which grows up to be about 30 centimeters in diameter and over 30 meters in height. The bamboo did not originally come from Japan but were brought from Taiwan and planted here.
Okinawa is also known to be inhabited by huge silk spiders (joro gumo). They are not particularly harmful but large enough to scare anyone who sees them for the first time. Their legs almost look like twigs!
Woman Cave and Man Cave
As you proceed further, you will come across a pair of caves, respectively named Inagu Cave and Ikiga Cave.
They have been worshipped since long ago; Inagu Cave to be symbolic of females as it has stalactites in the shape of breasts and buttocks and Ikiga Cave to be symbolic of males as it has a stalactite in the shape of a phallus.
While Inagu Cave is not accessible as it is vertically narrow and steep sloped, Ikiga Cave is one of the stops in the tour.
Each tour participant is given an oil lamp in the cave, which adds a nice and adventurous mood to the tour.
Audience with the “Sage of the Woods”
This strange looking tree is a tropical plant called “gajumaru” or also known as the banyan tree.
Gajumaru trees are considered to be “walking trees.” It is because their vine-like roots droop into the ground and gradually move as they seek for new ground for rooting when some of the roots die after exhausting the nutrient from the ground.
The greatest feature here is the large gajumaru tree, which is a few hundred years old and referred to as the sage of the woods. Enjoy the last part of the cave tour here admiring the gajumaru tree in awe and taking a memorial photograph with the tree.
A reservation is needed to join the tour. You can make a reservation via the official website or by telephone. Long pants and long-sleeved tops are recommended when joining the tour. The participation fee is 2,200 Yen per person.
< Access >
By Local Bus (No.54 or 83) Departing from Kamiizumi Bus Terminal near Asahibashi Yuirail Station.
About 30 minute by Taxi from Naha Airport.
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