Aha Dam Festival highlights magnificent nature
Although Okinawa has plenty of rainfall every year, it used to suffer from regular water shortages in the past, because of its porous limestone soil is not very good for preserving water. Instead, after rains, most of the water flows right back into the ocean.
That led the government to construct a system of dams to secure a steady supply of water. Most and the largest of the dams are owned and operated by the central government. They also have beautiful parks surrounding them that are free for residents to use, and some of them also organize annual festivals aimed at educating the public about the dams and the rich nature surrounding them.
Aha Dam Festival is a one-day event that takes place for the 10th consecutive year at Yanbaru Discovery Forest and around the Aha Dam facility on Sep. 17th. The dam is located in Kunigami in northern Okinawa, and besides opening a window to the workings of the dam, it also aims to educate the public about conservation of nature in the forests and jungles of northern Okinawa.
There are three facility tours in the morning and three more in the afternoon for visitors who want to know about the dam, its history and workings in detail. The tours are free and explanations are conducted in Japanese only.
The event features a selection of workshops and activities. Admission to the event and parking are free except the workshops, for which a small fee to cover the materials is charged. There are also free 40-minute boat cruises on the dam that are an excellent way to enjoy the lush jungles around the dam. Children age 6 and younger must be accompanied with a parent on boat trips that leave every 10 minutes. 5 to 7 people can take the boat trip at a time. In case of rain, the boat rides will be cancelled.
There’s also a playground for kids that features wooden toys that are free to use. Participation to the activities is limited and available on first come first served basis.
The event starts at 10:00 and ends at 16:00. A trip to Aha dam is an all-day affair from central Okinawa. To get there drive north on Route 329 past camp Schwab, and then follow route 70 along the coastline until you see a sign to Aha Dam.