CONTRIBUTED BY MARY RICHARDSON
Okinawan vista, photo taken while geocaching last weekend
A while back, a neighbor of ours mentioned that he’s been doing something with his family called “geocaching.” Ever heard of it?
Basically, it’s a high tech treasure hunt game in which you use a hand held GPS to track down hidden containers, or geocaches.
Think of it sort of like the Amazing Race (except without the million dollars).
Although you’re not winning money, there’s lots of excitement that comes just from the hunt. Throw in some competition between spouses, friends, or siblings to see who can find it first, and it becomes even more fun.
Geocaching is enjoyable for just about everybody including solo explorers, couples, and especially families with children who get excited about discovering that hidden box. (Incidentally, you are supposed to leave the box where you found it and you don’t actually take away any treasure, although sometimes there are surprise gifts for kids)
What’s more, it’s the perfect excuse to get out of the house and explore this island! You have the GPS- you can’t get lost!
Here’s how it works: You first need a hand held GPS device that will work on Okinawa. Then you register on the official geocache website and look at the list of caches, or hidden treasures currently placed around the island. You enter the coordinates of the cache into your GPS, and use that, some given clues, secret codes, and your own wits to find the treasure. Visit the official geocache website here.
Where you will hunt: Geocaches are hidden in both well-known and remote locations, which makes it great for visiting places you wouldn’t ordinarily go to. The geocache list online tells you the general area of the island, the level of difficulty, where to park, and even what kind of shoes to wear.
My husband and I get out and explore all the time, but even so, our hunt last weekend took us to a park that we never even knew existed.
In addition, Geocaching is an international game, and there are hidden boxes all over the world (and I mean ALL OVER). That means you can geocache in Tokyo on your next family trip there. You can geocache when you visit family in the States this summer. You can geocache in Europe if you get stationed there next. In fact, we’re going to Nagano, Japan in a few weeks and we’re taking our GPS, because guess what? There’s a geocache hidden at one of the main temples there.
For even more information, a few years back, Kelly wrote this post about how to start geocaching on Okinawa. Read her post here.
If you’ve ever had fantasies of being a contestant on the Amazing Race (like I have), here’s your chance to give it a whirl. Happy Geocaching!
I have been trying to start caching but I am not a good “finder” If there is anyone that whats to get together and hunt together, or someone that can help me out please email me. I live on McT and I know there are a ton of caches around here. Jenamcclendon@yahoo.com
I would love to start geocaching and to tag along
My husband and I geocache almost everyday and are looking for a couple to go geocaching with that are child free. Anyone interested let me know!
My husband and I (who are child free) have tried this twice these past two days and have sadly failed. We are determined to find these and would appreciate the help very much lol
We just tried this this past weekend. We do not have a GPS, however we were able to download a GPS application for $2.99 on our iphone. We were able to use the coordinates from the website and it took us right to the cache! I was glad it worked and it was so cheap! We have found a new hobby on island!
I was wondering what app you downloaded?
I have been using the Geocaching app from iStore. It is $10.00; it works well enough for caches that have no obstructions around them. If you have any tree cover or rocky surroundings overhead it tends to be unreliable. The cache location is firm, however, your location in relation is rather unstable.
Thanks Tim. I took a look at the site and saw that many people post additional waypoints for things like parking lots, but the main cache waypoint is posted in a file type used by the GPS. Where are the straight coordinates listed? I must say I prefer orienteering, but haven’t found much here on the island like the adventure races I used to do. Maybe I am looking in the wrong places?
Anne, it is *possible* to find it the old fashioned way (called orienteering) but the accuracy of GPSs will get you far better results, especially with some of the caches here on island. If you do decide to go that route, go prepared and stick to the 1-1 (lowest terrain, lowest difficulty) caches on island to hone your instincts before tackling the harder ones. I’ll try to get a list together, but really, the hobby is more designed for GPS users.
Silly question…I am not much of a gadget girl. Is it possible to use this geocaching site and a regular ol’ topo map and compass?
A company called Up Up Down has a Japan map that works with Garmin GPS units and will enable turn by turn navigation here. With some geocaches being in areas that we are often unfamiliar with, this can come in very handy. It even displays the names of many of the numbered roads, the Expy, etc.
You can check it out at http://uud.info/en/
All handheld GPSr units will “work” here in Japan. The units use line-of-sight satellite technology, so any GPS will work anywhere on the globe (GPS = Global Positioning System). I use a Garmin 60CSx (same exact model as pictured above)that I purchased from Amazon.com. Before my Garmin, I used a Magellan Explorist 210. I have a couple of friends who use Delorme units, and some that use Magellan units….I promise you they all “work”. Now obviously they will not have Okinawa street maps loaded on them, so you won’t be able to plug in an address and get turn-by-turn directions (although my buddy has a Garmin 550T that is capable of making maps from scratch). The beauty of Geocaching is that all you need is a set of coordinates, no need for turn by turn because most caches are going to have you hiking to an awesome view or some type of adventure. I own the cache pictured in the article, and I’m glad the author enjoyed the cache and the incredible views on the way up….that was my intent when placing the cache. The cache name is “Kenmin No Mori: The Sequel”. I highly recommend geocaching, it’ll take you to places you didn’t know existed, even those of you that have been here a few years. Additionally, after your initial investment on a GPS, geocaching doesn’t cost a thing and the whole family can do it!!
Most of the Garmin GPS work here. Our family Geocaches all the time, we really enjoy it. I have taken over 10,000 pictures on our adventures. There are places on the island that you will see Geocaching that otherwise you would not see on a daily basis.
We ordered ours off the internet, but our neighbor said he found his on Japan Update. I guess it’s worth it to check it out each week…
Thanks for the wonderful post! My family and I were avid geocachers back home in Oregon. We knew they had them here too, but we have been unable to find a GPS that works here. Where did you find one? We looked into trying to get one 2 years ago, but have found NOTHING! Any help to get back to geocaching would be appreciated!