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Kongou Sekirinzan is otherworldly hiking experience

By: David Knickerbocker

Date Posted: 2002-04-17

A new outdoor hiking park recently opened way up north near Hedo point. Kongou Sekirinzan opened to the general public on March 17 and is a hiking path like nothing you’ve ever seen on Okinawa. In fact, from the first minute you set off on your hike, the landscape gradually changes from a regular Okinawan scene to something out of this world.

On April 2, I set off on an adventure with my fiancé to check out this new park that a friend had told me about. He said that it was like being on a whole different planet, and I had to see for myself what he meant. After all, I had grown up on Okinawa and have lived here for almost two decades, so I figured I had seen it all. We bought a roll of film, hopped on the expressway, and after about two hours of non-stop driving we finally reached our destination.

The admission to the park is ¥500 for adults and ¥300 for middle school aged children and under. We paid our admission, were both given walking sticks, and were directed to board a bus. Once inside, the driver warned that the ride would be bumpy. The bus drove up and down a steep hill on a rough path and finally reached its destination about seven minutes later. We were then escorted outside and pointed in the right direction. The driver also showed us a map that was attached to a wooden post and appeared several times throughout our hike showing some of the highlights of the park. The map showed various rock formations and unique trees, but no map could have ever prepared us for what nature had made over thousands of years.

We set off on our hike and immediately were shocked with the landscape. Massive walls of rock jutted out of the ground in jagged form, entangled with trees and bushes. Over the years, these rocks were eroded by water and rain and have taken the form of giant stalactites. I whipped out my camera and instantly began snapping away. Further ahead was a humongous cliff of jagged rock, hundreds of feet tall, overlooking most of northern Okinawa. I’d wished I had been able to climb to the top to see the view. It must have been amazing! However, after climbing as far as I was permitted, I turned around and the view was still spectacular. We continued on our path and at one point decided to venture off a little to see if there was anything in the woods. We found a few other unique rock formations and a view of most of northern Okinawa. Amazing! After about forty minutes through the hike, our camera was already out of film. I had been a little too trigger happy, but I figured I had already seen most of what there was to see. I was wrong!

Once you get through the rocky section of the trail, you’ll be greeted up ahead by two very old, very interesting looking trees. One of them looked so ancient! The whole trunk of the tree was wrinkled like an elephant’s trunk. The other tree was a Banyan Tree I think, and I could imagine a kijimuna (mythical Okinawan creature, like a troll) coming out to greet us. I was so let down that I had no more film. We walked another ten minutes and knew we were near the end of the hike. Thinking we had seen all there was to see, we then ran into a humongous tree with hundreds of vines actually stretching from the limbs and branches that had buried themselves in the ground. Some of them were thin and flimsy, easily breakable, but others were so thick and so deeply rooted that one could easily climb the tree without having to worry about damaging the vine or the tree. This last tree was the last major viewpoint on the map so we continued on our path and soon reached the exit.

This hike was truly impressive! I had never imagined something so un-Okinawan could ever be present on Okinawa. During the whole hike, I was in awe, and no words can adequately describe what you will see. A few points to remember: bring at least two rolls of film or a digital camera; give yourself two to three hours on the hike so you can see everything; watch your step, some of the rocks are very low to the ground and jagged; explore outside the path—if the areas aren’t roped off, it’s ok to check them out, and you’ll see many more interesting things than if you had just hiked the dirt trail.

Kengou Seki is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. between April and September and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. between October to March. If you come in a group of fifteen or more people, admission has been dropped to ¥400 for adults and ¥300 for children. The shack at the entrance sells beer and drinks and gives away free water and informational pamphlets, so be sure to check it out too.

After the long hike, we jumped in our car and headed back to Okinawa City. Sunset was quickly approaching and the Nago landscape was looking more beautiful than ever. The hike had been long and we were exhausted, but it had been well worth it. Kongou Sekirinzan is an adventure all ages will enjoy.

Driving to Kongou Sekirinzan is very easy. If you take route 58 the whole way, stay on 58 until you reach the road turning left for Hedo point. Instead of turning left, turn right. A few minutes up the road, you’ll see signs for the park. If you take the expressway, drive all the way to the end. You’ll exit on route 58. Continue North and follow the same directions.

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