The Preeminent Sacred Place in the Ryukyu Kingdom
Utaki are both a sacred place and a place of prayer, and Sefa Utaki was the highest-ranking sacred place in the Ryukyu Kingdom. There is no artificial structure, the thick wood and bare rocks were admired as objects presented as God made them. Men used to be prohibited from entering here, and even kings were supposed to dress as women when they entered.
A Place for the Kingdom’s Spiritual Events
Oaraori, the inauguration ceremony of Kikoe Okimi – the highest-ranking priestess in the Ryukyu Kingdom – was held at Sefa Utaki. The ceremony featured a big parade, and priestesses from Shurijo Castle would visit a number of Utaki sites to pray on their way to Sefa Utaki. Sefa Utaki was also considered as an important place for Agari Umaai, which is the pilgrimage for kings to visit each Utaki site and pray for the prosperity of the kingdom and bountiful grain harvests. There are 6 spots to pray at Sefa Utaki, and some of the names are the same as the rooms at Shurijo Castle, indicating the depth of connection with the kingdom.
Religious Morphology Based on Natural Concepts
After climbing up the stone-paved road called Ujo-guchi, which constitutes the entrance to Sefa Utaki, there is a huge uplifted rock. This is the first place of worship, called Ufuguui, which means “a large hall.” After passing Ufuguui, next is Yuinchi. The fire of God which exists in the hearth is enshrined at this spot. Yuinchi is a name for a kitchen to cook the kings’ meals. Finally, the innermost spot is Sangui, with a triangle-shaped space formed by 2 gigantic rocks leaning against each other. A pot is placed next to Sangui and used as a receptacle to receive dripping water from the 2 stalactites. The water was used as spiritual water for New Year’s rituals.
The Myth of Amamikiyo and Sefa Utaki
The east side, from where the sun rises has given birth to many myths about the origins of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Consistent among all the myths, Kudaka Island is revered as the spot where Amamikiyo, the creator god of both the land and people of the Ryukyu Kingdom, first stepped upon. Kudaka Island is called the birthplace of the 5 grains and the land of God. The spiritual power of Kudaka Island is gathered at Sefa Utaki, which was held as the most sacred place in the Ryukyu Kingdom. After going through the triangle-shaped tunnel of Sangui, there is a spot to pray to Kudaka Island, which is visible beyond the bushes floating on the East Sea.
Column｜Appropriate Behavior at a Sacred Place
Sefa Utaki is still an important place for Okinawan people to pray. Unlike shrines and temples in Japan, you may feel awkward and wonder where to pray. First, position yourself at ease in nature and relax. Stones and tall rocks are meaningful objects, so it is prohibited to climb them or remove them. Please behave appropriately at sacred places.
Address: 270-1 Chinenkudeken, Nanjo City, Okinawa
Sefa Utaki Guide Tour
Your guide will explain the myths, history of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and spiritual culture in regards to Sefa Utaki.
Required Time: Approximately 50 minutes (negotiable)
Inquiries: Midori no Yakata Sefa Tel: 098-949-1899
Business Hours: 9:00 – 16:30
Participation Fee: 2,000 yen per person up to 10 people in one group (*100 yen more for each person if more than 10 people are participating)
- Reservations are recommended
- To prevent slipping, sandals are not allowed
- Tours are conducted exclusively in Japanese
Car (Approximately 1 hour & 30 minutes)
Take Route 332 from Naha Airport, then turn right at the entrance of Naha Airport. Proceed on Route 331, then turn right at Meijibashi Crossing and enter Naha Higashi Bypass / Route 329. Turn right at Uema Crossing and proceed on to Route 329. Take Route 331 at Yonabaru Crossing and proceed toward Nanjo City. Walk approximately 8 minutes from Nanjo City Local Products Hall (parking lot).
- Map Code for car navigation system: 33 024 282
- “マップコード” and “MAPCODE” are registered trademarks of DENSO.
Bus (Approximately 1 hour)
Take Futenma Naha A.P. Line (#25) or Ginowan Naha A.P. Line (#26) at Naha Airport and get off at Naha Bus Terminal. Take Toyo Bus, Shikiya Line (#38) and get off at “Sefa Utaki – mae” bus stop. Walk approximately 1 minute.
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