News: Marines learn about new ‘home’ at Okinawa World
Story by Lance Cpl. Ian McMahon
NANJO, Japan - Weekends offer the opportunity to explore and experience new things on Okinawa. Where to go, what to do, and with who are common questions. However, people new and old to Okinawa may not know what the island really has to offer.
One place of interest to consider is Okinawa World, a theme park in Nanjo that is rich with Okinawan culture. The single Marine program at Camp Foster ventured to the park recently, providing a memorable and enjoyable experience.
There are three major attractions at Okinawa World: the Habu Park, the Kingdom Village and Gyokusendo, a 3-mile, fully-lit cave formed approximately 300,000 years ago which is Japan’s second largest natural cave.
“The cave was definitely my favorite part,” said Lance Cpl. Kyle J. Faraday, an SMP member and network support division technician with Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “I’ve never seen anything like it before. I wasn’t expecting to see an underground waterfall.”
While some might enjoy the cave-exploring experience, others may find the Habu Park more to their liking. The park is divided into two parts, a museum and a zoological garden.
The museum provides an abundance of information on the various types of snakes indigenous to the island, like where they can be found, how dangerous they are and their natural predators, according to Arisa Goya, an Okinawa World staff member.
“There are plenty of exhibits to make the experience fun as well as educational,” said Goya.
Throughout the day, the museum holds shows featuring the habu snake and a Taiwanese cobra. Although the show is in Japanese, English handouts are available.
“It’s rare to see some of these dangerous animals in a safe environment,” said Goya. “The show is great fun for everyone no matter your age.”
After the show, visitors are given the chance to take pictures with a python draped over their shoulders and neck.
Behind the museum is the zoological garden, which contains bats, turtles, mongooses and many snakes, all of which are indigenous to Japan.
Another attraction is the Kingdom Village. The village consists of several shops and activities, such as a greenhouse with exotic plants, Eisa dancers, a habu sake brewery and more Okinawan history and culture.
“Around every corner there were different people selling unique handmade objects or foods and sharing their culture,” said Faraday. “During the whole trip there was always something to see or do.”
In addition to Okianwa World, service members wanting to see more of Okinawa can also visit Shurijo Castle Park, Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, and Ryukyu Mura, along with many other sites, to learn and truly enjoy their “new” home.