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2009
12.03

seifa-utaki

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the most sacred site in okinawa is seifa-utaki (斎場御嶽), a shrine located in the south east of the island.  the natural ceremonial altars at seifa-utaki are named after rooms in shuri castle.  due to its strong connections to the ryukyuan royal family, entrance to seifa-utaki was limited to royal officials.

seifa-utaki is composed of two significant words.  the first word, seifa, refers to a place holding divine power.  while utaki refers to sacred places in the ryukyuan language.  therefore this word is specific to japan’s southwest islands.  this UNESCO world heritage site is one of seven sacred places in okinawa.

if you do not have a rental car, reaching seifa-utaki is best done by bus.  from the bus terminal in downtown naha take bus 38 to seifa-utaki iriguchi (斎場御嶽入口).  the ride takes about 1:10 and costs 810 yen.  from the bus stop look around for sings pointing you to walk up the hill towards the entrance, about a 7 minute walk.  entrance to the site is 200 yen.  the return bus stop is across the street from the convenience store and post office.  the bus comes around about once per hour.

visiting this location is great if you want to make some other stops on the way back.  there are a few popular beaches that you cannot reach otherwise, so take your time and hang out at the beach after you visit this site.  also, unlike some of the other areas in okinawa that are full of hotels, this side of the island is mostly residential and vacation homes.  an atmosphere which i prefer.

you begin your walk through seifa-utaki at ujo-guchi (御門口).  since entrance was limited to a select few, incense burners were placed to the right of the entrance for people to pray.  each incense burner represented one of the six altars at seifa-utaki.

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ufugui (大庫理) was used for sacred inaugurations and ritual of priestesses.

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just a little further along the path.  go left first so that you leave the best part for last.  ;)

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headed towards yuinchi (寄満).

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at yuinchi a horseshaped stone was used to foretell yearly fortunes.  this ryukyuan word means a place full of abundant harvest and catches of fish.  yeah, pretty long for just “yuinchi”.  :)

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head back to the fork in the path and walk in the other direction.  this takes you to sangui (三庫理).  since seifa-utaki is a shrine, expect to see people praying.

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a main view of the area, facing the altar.

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to the right of the triangle entrance you will notice two stalactites and pots sitting beneath them.  water dripping from these stalactites was considered holy.  this water was used for foretelling fortunes and for a ceremonial ritual held on new year’s day.

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view of kudaka island and the pacific ocean from the other side of the triangular opening.

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i like how this photo throws me off balance.

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cool roots growing down the rocks from the trees above.  they look like veins on the rocks.

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after your visit to seifa-utaki, and on your way back to the bus stop you can take a break at this coffee house.  it’s good, and they have a nice view of the ocean from the porch.

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a few additional photos.  ;)

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video of seifa-utaki.

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