Okinawa has been governed by a number of cultures very different from each other. Japan as we know it today, America during the post-WWII era, Japan again during the dusk of the Samurai aga / the dawn of the industrial revolution, plus the heavy influence from ancient China during the Ryukyu Kingdom period.
The Ryukyu Kingdom once held a very important geo-location in the Pacific. Fast forward 400 years later, it is still holding a very special place in every Okinawan’s heart.
I am a child of Ryukyu with a Japan passport.
– an Okinawa native once told me.
When the Ryukyu Kingdom was finally united into one nation things started to develop. Seriously, an island that stretches three hours from the south end to the north end used to be divided into three countries. Imagine you need a passport for a day trip to visit Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu, the capital was set in Shuri (near that red castle in Naha). During the time of peace, culture, leisure activity, and religion started to develop. With increasing amount of trading partners who brought new ideas to the island such as, pottery art, winemaking, art, and religious rituals, these things flourished during the golden time of Ryukyu Kingdom.
In Ryukyu religion, it’s believed that the creator of Okinawa first landed on Kudaka island, and then created the land and people of Okinawa. During the Ryukyu kingdom era, the royal family worshiped Kudaka island from Seifa Utaki.
Seifa Utaki (official English site here) is located in modern-day Nanjo city, the city of heart. Why the city of heart? Because it’s shaped like a heart. Can you see it in your Okinawa map?
Seifa Utaki was the most sacred place of Ryukyu kingdom because it’s the closest spot on Okinawa’s mainland to the god’s island. In the deepest of Seifa Utaki, there is a big rock with a small, naturally formed, circular window with a direct view to Kudaka island. The Ryukyu king assigned a priestess (usually his sister) to perform religious rituals at this spot to pray for peace and good harvest. In addition to that, the Ryukyu king went to Kudaka island once every 12 years to perform a religious ritual on the island. Why once every 12 years? Because twelve years is a full circle on the Chinese zodiac calendar.
The deepest part of Seifa Utaki, the most sacred place of Ryukyu kingdom where the highest ranked priestess used to perform religious rituals.
On your Okinawa map, there is a hidden image of the Ryukyu priestess praying towards Kudaka island. Did you see it?
I highly recommend you visit Cape Chinen in Nanjo city and Seifa Utaki in Nanjo city. Go to the welcome center near Cape Chinen to learn about the religious history of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It’s probably unlike anything you already know about Okinawa.
While You Are There
I also recommend to add the places below to your agenda:
Arguably one of the best views and best Thai food restaurants in Okinawa. In fact, their chefs are from Thailand. Their restaurant offers about 30 kinds of dishes such as original curry, authentic Thai dishes, salads, and desserts. The average cost per person is 1,200 yen.
The view from the outdoor terrace of Cafe Kurukuma
Motsuku soba restaurant
Everything in this restaurant is made with Okinawa’s famous motsuku seaweed, including dessert.
If you like fish sashimi (raw fish) and Japanese tempura, this small island has the best (for the most reasonable price).
There are 30 more hidden secrets like this on the Okinawa map. Join 5,300+ Okinawa Map Owners to Discover Okinawa Together
Where to Buy The Map
The Okinawa maps are sold in a number of locations in Okinawa, please find a store near you to buy the map. If you live outside of Okinawa or if you want to send a map to your friends and family, we can ship the map to anywhere outside of Okinawa.
**The information in this article is written by the designer of the Okinawa Story Map based personal experience. It does not aim to be 100% accurate or academically correct. Please enjoy the stories and feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding this article.