Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Utaki The Sacred Sites of Okinawa (Photos)

      Today for Travel Photo Thursday I'd like to introduce you to Okinawa's Sacred Sites, Utaki.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sacred sites located throughout the islands of Okinawa, Japan.

The most popular Utaki are UNESCO World Heritage Sites or within the sites, such as the photos I'm showing you today. The women above are making offerings at a sacred well, within the walls of UNESCO Nakagusuku Castle.

A grove of trees, source of water, stone and a hill all seem to be common themes for Utaki.  Sometimes, there is a small building at the site. It may resemble a shrine or miniature temple but, not an elaborate, brightly-colored shrine you'd see at a Buddhist Temple. We have a few of those, too.

Okinawans are ancestor worshipers. The religion here is a combination of many things. There are several gods in nature and Animism, Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism all play a part in the spiritualism on these islands.

Many Utaki, I have come across, are in remote areas, not necessarily on a hill.  Some are found in villages and not in heavily wooded areas.  Most of them will not have signs written in English.

Whenever you see women in the middle of nowhere or in front of a small shrine, or even a pile of rocks, with trays of food, such as rice balls, fruits, something to drink and smell incense burning, you can be sure of one thing.  They aren't having a picnic.  They are more than likely worshipping at an Utaki.

Discrete would be my advice if you happen to come across people worshipping in any culture.  These women consented to my taking their photos because I speak their dialect.  So, I did the silver-tongue work and got Doc Graff, the other Cameraman to handle the manual labor of helping the gals up and down some dangerous stairs. Hah!

For more information on The Sacred Sites of Okinawa visit UTAKI


Unknown said...

Very interesting, and of course the photos are wonderful, as always. Helping the ladies up and down the are a charmer! :)

RyukyuMike said...

Hah, I was the brains behind the operation. Doc, did the muscle part !

Muza-chan said...

What a beautiful place, Mike.

RyukyuMike said...

We'll have to get you snd thst D300 down here, someday for a camera tour!

Leigh said...

I get a sense of peace when I look at the two women praying. Lovely shots.

Cathy Sweeney said...

I think ancestor worship is very interesting, so enjoyed learning more from your post. Lovely photos.

RyukyuMike said...

The religion doesn't matter either, to me. Thanks.

RyukyuMike said...

It would surprise many people to see how well-behaved the population here can be without having any churches to attend.

Bia Nagahama said...

Hello, Mike! I am Brazilian and I lived in Okinawa in 2000 to learn about their spirituality. I lived there for 8 months and well as the culture is very closed and I'm sure that people only photos you have authorized to take it by kas you have shown respect to what they were worshiping! Congratulations for the pictures and the text!

RyukyuMike said...

Bia Nagahama,
Thank you for reading and commenting. I hope you enjoyed your visit and come back again, someday!