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Gangala Valley guards mysteries of distant past

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2010-06-04

Two large banyan trees guard the entrance to the Valley of Gangala, where from the adjacent open space the Trip of the Mysteries of life begins.

Gangala takes its name from a species of butterflies living in the palm trees of India and Sri Lanka, and is also a location in Niger, Africa. Mysteries abound, because if the name is slightly skewed to be Gongora, it is a family of orchids native to Central and South America. Gangala Valley Park’s Takato Tamashiro says the real meaning of Gangala is the description of the sound of a stone thrown and then rolling down a hillside. We’re not sure how this all plays into the beauty of this Gangala Valley, and its lush cave with cool temperatures, forest healing, singing insects and just about anything else you’d like to experience.

The Gangala Valley experience begins through a large cave that houses the Cave Café that is a good place to relax while waiting the start of your tour. The café serves coffee that is brewed from locally grown beans, and Nihede Beer from the microbrewery across the street. In the back of the cave there is a stage for occasional live music performances, and a large screen that features images of the valley.

Four guided tours are offered each day at Gangala Valley, with each starting at the Cave Café. Reservations made at least a day in advance are required for the 10 a.m., Noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. tours. Each takes about 1½ hours, and covers details of the ancient times and people’s lives. A special guide provides details of everything from a cave collapse that created the valley to pre-historic relics that have been discovered there. Although the tours are conducted in Japanese only, there are written English language explanations on the details of the tour that are handed out to foreign visitors.

The valley is a site of pre-historic settlement estimated to date some 18,000 years back. The excavation on the site continues, and so far has produced bone fragments, four skeletons and tools of so called Minatogawa people who are thought to be among the oldest inhabitants of Okinawa, and some of the oldest in all Asia. Some researchers argue that they were the ancestors of the people of Japan in the Jomon period.

Entrance fee for the tour is ¥2,000 for adults. The fee for 12~18-year-old and university students is ¥1,500. Group tours of 10 or more elementary school students pay ¥1,000 each. Reservations may be made at (098) 948-4192.

Gangala Valley is located in the southern part of the island just across the road from the better known Ryukyu Kingdom Village and Gyokusendo Cave theme park. From Kadena take the Okinawa Expressway south and get off at Haebaru Minami exit. Continue south through Kochinda and follow signs to “Cave.” At the end of the road turn left. The Gangala Valley parking lot is on the left 50 meters from the intersection.

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