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See Okinawa's underwater world with "Mogurin"

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-04-25

Do you have the strong desire to delve into the turquoise blue waters off of Okinawa's coastline, but do not have the confidence yet to try scuba diving? If you fit this description, you probably are a good candidate for a passenger on the "Mogurin", Okinawa's only submarine built to take tourists into the ocean depths. Apart from military submarines, the "Mogurin" is actually the only submarine in all of Japan offering anyone a chance to experience the underwater world, through the portholes of an aquatic submergible vessel.

Leaving daily from the port of the Sun Marina Resort, the "Mogurin" anchors off of the coast of Cape Maeda, where jagged cliffs plunge straight down to the coral reef below. Extending outward, the reef drops off to deep, blue water, providing a safe haven for the "Mogurin". A ferry transports passengers back and forth to the sub on a short fifteen minute ride. Once you have entered the "Mogurin", you start to get a small feeling of what many ocean explorers must have felt the first time they left the world of air above. Descending to a depth of about 100 feet, you slowly become enthralled by the deep blue background that fills each porthole of the sub. Sitting at any of the seats facing these large round windows, you get an excellent view of what is going on outside. Soon, fish can be seen in all directions - giant batfish, moorish idols, parrot fish, and threadfin butterflyfish are just some of the marine life you will encounter. Below, many hard corals line the outcrops of rising hills from the ocean floor.

Taking a break from viewing the outside marine world, you then begin to realize that you are completely submerged in an airtight tube. Exhilaration is mixed with nervousness, but the "Mogurin" is absolutely safe. The cabin is completely pressurized, so you feel no discomfort. If by some unforeseen mechanical difficulty, the "Mogurin" could not ascend back to the surface under its own power, there are three safety backup procedures to put any worries you might have to rest. Water tanks can be emptied and filled with air, causing the submarine to rise; "drop weights", which are used as ballast, can be released to make the "Mogurin" float upwards; and there is a crane on the ferry that can easily pull the sub up by cable. There is also enough air, food, and water on the "Mogurin" to last for three days, if necessary.

The "Mogurin" has been taking both Americans and Japanese underwater for the past ten years. The submarine, which is also capable of moving through the ocean depths on its own energy, can hold up to 40 people. It operates everyday and all year round, except from January until the middle of February, when it is brought out of the water for general maintenance.

The regular price for a ride on the "Mogurin", which lasts about forty to forty five minutes, is 10,000 for adults and 5,000 for kids. During peak tourist season, July 20 until August 31, the price goes up to 12,800 for adults and 6,400 for children. Group discounts are available for over 15 people, and all children under four years of age can ride free of charge.

The "Mogurin" is currently running a local discount price that offers huge savings for anyone, including all military personnel and foreign residents here on Okinawa. From April 4 until June 30, adult tickets are being sold for only 7,000 and children get to ride for 3,500. The special price is not available during the "Golden Week" holiday, which is from April 25 until May 4. The local discount is being promoted by Okinawa Tourist Service, and tickets for the special price must be purchased from them. Okinawa Tourist Service is located in the Plaza House Shopping Mall, and there are also several other locations around the island.

Reservations throughout the year for regular price and the group discount rate can be made by calling 964-5555, or by fax at 964-5570.

Enjoy one of Japan's unique experiences this year, and find out what all the fuss is about below the surface of the island's blue ocean.

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