About Gyokusendo Cave
A Natural Marvel Situated in the Center of Okinawa is the Gyokusendo Cave.
Gyokusendo Cave is a breathtaking natural wonder that has been mesmerizing tourists to Okinawa Island, Japan, for many years. It is located in the southwestern section of the island. The limestone cave was formed more than 300,000 years ago, and it features a labyrinthine network of stalactites, stalagmites, and underground rivers that flow through its walls. Additionally, the cave is known for its crystal clear waters. Gyokusendo Cave is an attraction that visitors to Okinawa simply cannot miss due to the unearthly beauty of its interior as well as its extensive geological history.
The name of the cave in Japanese is Gyokusendo, which literally translates to “cave of the valuable stone route.” It is said to be one of the longest caverns in Okinawa, reaching for more than 5 kilometers underground, making it one of the longest caves on the island. Nevertheless, only a small section of the cave, which is approximately 850 meters in length, is accessible to the general public. Cave goers have the opportunity to marvel at the complex rock and mineral formations that line the cave’s walls and ceilings as they make their way through the cave’s meandering passageways.
The steady drop of water over the course of millennia has resulted in the formation of stalactites and stalagmites in Gyokusendo Cave, which are one of the cave’s most distinctive characteristics. There are some of these formations that are over 30 meters long and take on a broad variety of colors and patterns, ranging from delicate wisps to gigantic pillars. Some of these formations are even multicolored. The cave’s underground rivers are equally as spectacular, with water so clean that it mirrors the cave’s one-of-a-kind beauty and serves as a habitat for a wide variety of fish and other forms of aquatic life.
In addition to its breathtaking natural features, Gyokusendo Cave is also home to a museum that details the geological history of the cave as well as the one-of-a-kind ecology that has developed within its confines. There are displays at the museum that explain how limestone caves were formed, the history of Gyokusendo Cave, as well as the plants and animals that live in the cave’s underground rivers and ponds.
History timeline of Gyokusendo Cave
Here is a brief timeline of the history of Gyokusendo Cave:
- Over 300,000 years ago: Gyokusendo Cave begins to form as a result of natural geological processes, such as erosion caused by groundwater and carbonic acid.
- 1967: Gyokusendo Cave is accidentally discovered by workers who are digging a well in the area.
- 1970: A team of experts is brought in to explore and survey the cave, and they determine that it is one of the longest and most beautiful caves in Okinawa.
- 1972: Gyokusendo Cave is opened to the public as a tourist attraction, with a small portion of the cave made accessible for visitors.
- 1973: The first phase of the cave’s development is completed, which includes the installation of walkways and lighting systems to improve accessibility for visitors.
- 1990: The second phase of the cave’s development is completed, which includes the construction of a museum, a restaurant, and other facilities to accommodate the growing number of visitors.
- 1994: Gyokusendo Cave is designated as a natural monument by the Japanese government, recognizing its importance as a unique and valuable natural wonder.
- 2013: The cave undergoes a major renovation to upgrade its facilities and improve its sustainability, including the installation of energy-efficient lighting and air conditioning systems.
Today, Gyokusendo Cave remains a popular tourist destination and a symbol of the natural beauty and geological history of Okinawa.
How to reach Gyokusendo Cave
On Okinawa Island, Japan’s Gyokusendo Cave may be found at the island’s southernmost region. The cave can be reached in a number of different methods, including:
By car: Visitors who arrive at the cave via automobile can do so from Naha City or from other locations on Okinawa Island. From Naha City, the trip takes around one hour by car. Visitors can leave their vehicles in the spacious parking lot that is conveniently located next to the cave entrance.
By Bus: You may get there by bus, as there is a service that travels between Naha City and the Gyokusendo Cave. Visitors can reach the cave entrance by taking the bus number 46 from the Naha Bus Terminal and alighting at the “Gyokusendo-mae” stop, which is situated just in front of the cave entrance. The trip by bus lasts approximately one hour and costs close to 820 yen.
By Taxi: Guests also have the option of taking a taxi from Naha City or other locations on Okinawa Island to get here. However, this is a more pricey alternative to riding the bus or driving than the other two options.
When guests arrive to the cave, they will have the opportunity to purchase entry tickets and then embark on a guided tour that will take them through the highlights of the cave. The tour lasts for approximately thirty minutes to one hour and can be done in Japanese, English, Chinese, or Korean. Every day from 8:30 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening, with the last admittance at 5:00 in the afternoon, the cave is open.
Do's and Dont's at Gyokusendo Cave
Visitors to Gyokusendo Cave should follow certain rules and guidelines to ensure their safety and the preservation of the cave. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Follow the instructions of the cave staff and stay on the designated path. The cave has been carefully designed to ensure visitors can explore it safely while preserving its natural beauty.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes with good grip. The cave floor can be slippery in some places, so it’s important to wear appropriate footwear.
- Take plenty of pictures and enjoy the beauty of the cave. Gyokusendo Cave is a rare natural wonder, and visitors should take the time to appreciate its unique features.
- Learn about the cave’s history and geological significance. The cave museum provides a wealth of information on the formation of limestone caves and the ecosystem that has evolved within Gyokusendo Cave’s walls.
- Touch or remove any of the cave’s formations. The stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations in the cave are delicate and can be easily damaged. Visitors should refrain from touching or attempting to remove them.
- Eat or drink inside the cave. Food and drink can attract animals and insects, and can also cause damage to the cave’s delicate ecosystem.
- Smoke or use open flames inside the cave. Smoking and the use of open flames are strictly prohibited in the cave, as they can cause fires and damage the cave’s formations.
- Use flash photography or bright lights. The cave’s lighting has been carefully designed to enhance its natural beauty, and the use of flash or bright lights can be disruptive to other visitors and may also damage the cave’s ecosystem.
By following these guidelines, visitors can enjoy a safe and unforgettable experience at Gyokusendo Cave while also helping to preserve this natural wonder for future generations to enjoy.
Some statistics about Gyokusendo Cave
- Length: The cave is approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) long, although only about 890 meters (2,920 feet) are open to the public.
- Depth: The deepest part of the cave is about 50 meters (164 feet) below ground level.
- Age: The cave is estimated to be around 300,000 years old.
- Temperature: The temperature inside the cave is a constant 21°C (70°F) year-round.
- Humidity: The humidity inside the cave is high, typically ranging from 80% to 98%.
- Features: The cave is home to a wide variety of unique limestone formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and flowstones.
- Wildlife: The cave is home to a number of unique and rare species, including the Okinawa rail, a flightless bird that is endemic to the island of Okinawa.
- Guided tours: Visitors to the cave can take a guided tour that lasts approximately 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the group.
- Accessibility: The cave is generally accessible to visitors of all ages and abilities, although some areas may be more challenging for those with mobility issues.