A series of happenings and related connection spun us across five islands today. It all started with a Facebook ad for a restaurant on Henza Island. The restaurant was also recommended to us by the head Doctor of the hospital we are volunteering and teaching at. Since we were going there for lunch we thought it would be good to spend the morning revisiting Miyagi Island which is just east of Henza Island. As usual we were there to view the sacred shrines, sites of legends, take a few pictures and say a few prayers. We left Okinawa Island early, made it to Miyagi and then to Henza. Finding the restaurant in a small Okinawa village was not as easy but we made it there by 1:30 pm. The restaurant was just a local’s home with a small sign on the front. We sat in the outside garden with a view of the ocean and Hamahiga Island in the distance. It was serene, very quiet, just the noise of the birds and some children playing in the street. The owner of the restaurant made lunch for us; we were the only ones there except for the owner. The owner said she had once worked at the same hospital but wasn’t cut out to deal with mental patients, so she started a restaurant. As the conversation spun on, we were informed that the island Uta, the female Shaman, Psychological and spiritual counselor lived a few houses down the street. We talked for two hours and since we were looking at Hamahiga Island, Iori asked if we could visit the sacred shrine Agari no Utaki which means ‘The Worshiping Place of the East’. Hamahiga Island, like Kudaka Island is considered to be one of the holiest places in Okinawa.
So after lunch we headed over to the Shrine on Hamahiga Island, our fourth island stop for the day. While we were there, we met a Japanese couple who came to pray at the Sacred Ancient tomb. They had just come from Yabuchi Island and recommended that we visit the sacred caves there.
We could see Yabuchi Island across the water from the Henza Bridge and so within the hour we were hiking down the trail to the Sacred Caves. Yabuchi Island, our fifth stop has many farms but no houses as every house ever built there has burned down. The locals say the spirits from the caves do not want human neighbors. There is an Archeological Marker noting the pottery and arrowheads found in the caves date back some 6,500 years. I didn’t have a flashlight and so I only went in as far as my cell phone light would illuminate the way, about ten feet……I’m not that fond of mosquitoes and bats to venture too far without proper equipment. All in all it was an excellent and adventurous day and we have made connections to possibly meet the Uta in the future.
If you don’t know about Okinawa Uta, Noro or Kuro Miko, just Google it. You may be surprised at how different these Island cultures view the world.