When we think of theme parks, it is often something along the lines of Disneyland or Universal Studios that comes to mind. However, on Okinawa Island in Japan, a different type of theme park lies, itself characterized more so by wonders of the natural world. Okinawa World is one of Japan’s greatest attractions, partly because of the snake museum and craft village inside. However, it’s safe to say that it is the infamous Gyokusendo Cave that attracts most of Okinawa World's visitors. Gyokusendo Cave is one of the largest in the world, coming close to Han Son Doong located in Vietnam. The cave spreads a length of 3.1 subterranean miles (5 kilometers), although only slightly over half a mile (850 meters) are open to the public. This is to preserve some of the cave’s integrity and cultural significance. It is said that Gyokusendo cave was formed some 300 thousand years ago, and was discovered by a Japanese group of University students in 1967. However, it is argued that the area's locals knew about the cave for years beforehand. The cave is described as being an “illuminating” sight, as the water glows a bright blue within the cave.
Tourism is thriving in Nanjo City, near where Gyokusendo cave is located. This is mainly due to the cave and because of the attractions of Okinawa World that are located above it on the surface. The amusement park is very accessible by bus, and admissions costs between around $5 and $11 USD (620-1240 Japanese Yen) depending on the age of the patron. Along with these reasonable prices, there is a tax free souvenir shop for memorabilia, with the hours of operation for the park being between 9:00am and 6:00pm. The half-mile-long stretch open to the public is a very secure and safe pathway that is lit up and covered with guardrails for increased stability.
The cave’s inside is composed of limestone which contributes to the glowing look of the water. Many Stalactites are visible throughout the cave, and they grow at a rate of around 0.04 inches (1 millimeter) per year, with some reaching lengths of several yards long. The caves temperature remains relatively cool and very even, at approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21oC) throughout the year, which is perfect for preventing overheating when the cave becomes crowded.
Another attraction popular to Okinawa World is the Habu Museum Park, which is itself a museum dedicated to the dangerous snakes native to the land. Although the snakes do not live directly in the caves, they are found in considerable numbers in the surrounding areas on Okinawa. Along with the snakes, mongooses and certain reptiles can also be found locally.
The cave is set up to be a very stable aesthetic adventure for tourists, although it is still wise to take caution when visiting. When wet, the cave floors can become very slippery, and taking care to have proper footwear is advised. The Habu Museum Park is full of poisonous snakes and, although the keepers try their best to avoid bites, many get bitten every year. However, this is not to discourage travellers, as the Okinawa community and the Japanese government have taken all the precautions necessary to ensure a safe and fun visit for all.
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