Saturday, March 18, 2017

Okinawan Spirits and Spirituality

prayer and rituals with a priestess in a candle-lit cave

Praying in a Candle Lit Cave

It's that time of the year again, where these rituals occur on Kouri-jima. 

The photo of the old guy, next to the Yuta (priestess) happens to be me.

Not particularly religious, I go through the motions, just like everybody else in the cave.

That photo was taken a few years ago by the Map It Okinawa dude, with my camera.

I don't recall, what kind of prayer, I may have been making. Let's see.

How about, "Don't let the tide come in, until I get me and the cameras, out of here."

Back Up to Last Night's Celebrations


This "Guy Walks Into the Bar Story" must be told because, it inspired me.

It was St. Patrick's Day and I was just about to finish my first beer.

The Irish Pub was extremely busy. Maybe 120 people in a bar built to hold 30.

Standing room only but, the crowd made sure, I got a barstool close to the door.

A very intoxicated youngster stumbled in and stood next to me.

He said something like, "Okinawa is a state of mind."  That impressed me and, I agreed."

It was something, I would have wrote down if, I had a pen, I told the guy.

As the bar tender came down our way the youngster ordered a round for himself and me.

When he dropped to the floor, everybody assumed, I decked him, for some reason.

A bunch of folks came running over and asked if, the kid had bothered me.

I laughed and said, "I didn't knock him down. He reached for his money and fell over."

The kid was so plastered, when he reached for the wallet, in his pocket, he fell.

I told everyone, he was trying to buy me a drink. They got someone, to cart him home.

All of a sudden, everyone wanted to buy me drinks. I told them to save their money.

When I finished my 1st beer, it was time to move on to another watering hole.

As I stood up, a pretty gal, walked in so, I told her the barstool was reserved for her.

Next stop was a Brazilian bar and, plenty of celebrating Irish were in there, too. 

When I ordered a beer and it came, they said it had already been paid for.

I drank it quickly and ordered another one. All my drinks got paid for in advance, somehow.

Some of the crowd from bar #1 were there and, paid for my drinks. Rough night.

After the second beer, I decided it was time to move along and spend, my own money.

And, I didn't want to forget, what that youngster had told me. State of mind.

It would be nice, to come up with one word to describe Okinawa.


Okinawa is part of Japan but, closer to Taiwan than Tokyo. It's different than Japan.

We're so far south, some people call Okinawa, The Other Japan.

If, I had to put my finger on one word, it would be spirituality. You could Tweet it.

Procession going to a cave for Okinawan rituals

The people above, are trekking through the brush, to crawl into a cave by the sea.

Several times, I've been down there and, really dread the climb. People go every year.

Locals and people from all over Japan, go to attend this ritual.

They will pray and be blessed by a Yuta (Okinawan priestess) while in the cave.

This cavern, isn't visible, when the tide comes in and, fills it with water.

people crawling into a seaside cave

This is what the mouth of the cavern looks like at low tide.

The congregation, literally, has to dig in the sand, opening the front door to enter.

Spring Equinox, I've learned, is when some of the lowest tides of the year, take place.

Other Okinawa rituals, involving the ocean, happen during this season.

This one, comes to mind because, I've invited another foreign friend to attend.

Not many Americans have gone to witness this sort of ceremony.

Woman in prayer at back entrance to cave facing water

This younger shaman (yuta or priestess) is facing the rear entrance to the cave.

Prayers are uttered by the priestesses in some unintelligible language.

Blessings are given to each attendee, individually and, I keep worrying about the tide.

There are alcoholic spirits in that cave, along with any other spirits summoned for the event.

To me, Okinawa is not a state of mind. It's something about the people. They are different.

Let's just say, spirituality is what separates them from the rest of Japan.

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