So it had been two weeks since I have done any traveling and I was feeling a little restless. My choices were Iejima, which I had been to once, but not the whole island, or Kudaka, near Sefa Utaki. I decided on Kudaka since I wanted the novelty of a new place.
I have been to Sefa Utaki twice, once with my intrepid companion Amanda Jordan and once with my karateka brother, Aivaras Engelaitis. It is a sacred power spot for the Ryukyu people. The island, Kudaka sits about 25 minutes away by boat and is the place where the god Amimikiyo descended from the skies to create the Ryukyu people and culture.
I jumped on the ferry a little later than I wanted to, but it was okay, just incredibly hot. There were at least twenty of us who disembarked and headed up the road in search of rental bicycles. They gave us this map that made it look like the island was so big…it is not. Anyway we went to one place for bikes, it was not open…we went back to the first building we came upon, the line was out the door. I was approached by a very polite man, I think he was Chinese, who spoke in halting, but clear English, asking if I knew where he could get a bike. I pointed at the last place we were all headed to and said, ‘atchi’. So we all got our bikes and off we went. Of course, I am a bit of a loner and tend to spurn the herd, so I took a little side street.
Traveling on these little Ryukyu islands is such a treat because you are invariably greeted with friendliness and there is a sweetness to these people. Of course all the tourists were friendly too…we kept passing each other on the different roads. I saw this trio of ladies who I assume were Japanese, and every time we passed, the lady in the middle would wave vigorously and shout, ‘hello,hello!’ It was very awesome. I couldn’t help but laugh.
So off I went to Yuguruka, which was an ancient well near the sea. The picture below was taken during my descent. It was very overgrown and I kept trying to remember whether or not the habu like the sea. I never saw any, but I was on the look out.
It’s always surprising to me that when the weather is 95 degrees you can find cool water. I hiked back up and headed toward Hatasu, the field where the first grains were planted on the island.
I had heard from my good friend Tamayo that this was a sacred island and there are places that are forbidden to go. Many places men are simply not allowed, and if you recall from previous posts, the priests are all women in the Ryukyu kingdom. That being said, they have some places marked but they are not in English. And I thought, hey I can read Hiragana and Katakana, no problem. Umm, just about everything has Kanji sprinkled in or predominantly, so much for my being able to read the signs. I did come to Kubou-Utaki and knew at once this is a forbidden place. I will tell you what my crumpled up map says about it, ” the most sacred of Okinawa’s seven sacred sites, with entry being forbidden to males. The Pimati, Mabucchi-sai-Hisachi, August Festival and Fubamaku rituals are held here.” I took my picture from the road, said a little thank you to whoever was listening and set out for Romance Road!
I don’t know why they call it Romance Road, but it was, like the rest of the island, serene and lush and beautiful. As I rode through the little rock/sand road, I noticed bananas growing right by the side of the road! I took many pictures, that I will not bore you with, because I’m sure you’re not as fascinated by these things as I am.
I read in my little handout that there are only 200 residents of the island and all the property is publicly owned, that is to say, they all distribute it amongst each other. I think that is so neat.
This little video was shot at the tip of the island, Cape Kaberu. The story here is: “it is said that the gods would ride horses from here on the day of Mizuone (the day when the rainy season starts) to inspect the island perimeter. The small beach on the cape has livistona chinensis palm forests and is said to be the sacred land where Amimikiyo arrived long ago. The Hisachi ceremony held in January according to the old lunar calendar is a prayer at the cape for bountiful fishing year-round.”
When they talk about the sacred land with the palm forests, I think of the sacred groves of Athena. So many legends share commonalities, Jung would have attributed this to the Universal Unconscious, I believe.
For those of you who don’t know me well, I love legends and myths, so arriving at Ishikihama Beach was fascinating for me. The story here is that the island people only had shellfish and fruit to live on, so this one couple prayed for more food. After praying, a golden jar floated in from the sea, to this place. They tried to get the jar, but it would float away out of reach. This happened again. Finally the couple bathed in the Yaguru River and dressed in white and this time they were able to get the jar. Inside the jar were seven kinds of seeds including wheat and chestnuts. Isn’t that nice? I love that story. So I took quite a few pictures.
I do understand the draw of this place, there is a quiet power that does refresh you here, it’s palpable. It is easy to close your eyes and imagine gods roaming the forests and riding on horses to inspect the island.
As I was getting ready to go to the ferry, I noticed a little friend across the street. His name is Nanjii and he is the mascot of Nanjo, the town of Sefa-Utaki…he’s always out doing something, that Nanjii!
So until next time, I hope everyone has a great week, and get outside and do some exploring!!