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Kudaka Island

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  • Japanese: 久高島 (Kudaka jima)

Kudakajima is a sacred island located a short distance to the east of Okinawa Island. According to the Omoro sôshi and other songs and legends of the Ryukyuan religion, Kudaka was where the creation goddess Amamikyo first came down to earth, before crossing over to Okinawa Island at Sefa utaki. Prayers and rites for the protection of the kingdom, and with other meanings, were historically performed regularly on the island, or facing the island at sites such as Sefa utaki; Urasoe gusuku, Sui gusuku, and Nakagusuku gusuku also had sacred spaces from which priestesses and others could face east (Okinawan: agari) towards Kudaka, the sea (nirai kanai), and the rising sun, as they performed prayers or rituals.[1]

Much of Kudaka was restricted in the premodern period to the noro priestesses associated with the royal court, and though a number of people live on the island today (men and women both), and local government encourages tourism, many areas remain off-limits to the public today, due to their sacredness. The king was one of the only men permitted to enter many of these sacred spaces historically, and even then did so only accompanied by priestesses who provided him spiritual protection. One such site is Kuba nu utaki, also known as Kubô utaki, one of the most sacred spaces on the island and closed entirely today to outsiders.

While the successors to the Kudaka Island noro of the kingdom period generally disapprove of mainland tourists coming to Kudaka for "touring sacred spots" (seichi junrei), a number of women from Okinawa Island or elsewhere, identifying themselves as "noro," regularly lead tourists around various sites on the island. Because utaki are not technically owned by any given priestly family (as Shinto shrines in mainland Japan are) or overseen by any institutional authority, there is little that anyone can do to stop these tourist visits, even if they wished; while some may oppose this tourism as appropriative or disrespectful to the sacred sites and traditions, the island's local economy is also reliant on it, making the issue complicated and difficult.[2]

References

  • Takara Kurayoshi 高良倉吉, "Kami no shima o sasaeta otokotachi no ashiato o mitsuketa" 「神の島を支えた男たちの足跡を見つけた」, Coralway magazine, Jan/Feb 2020, 36-39.
  1. Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 128-129.
  2. Aike Rots, "Strangers in the Sacred Grove: The Changing Meanings of Okinawan Utaki," Religions 10:298 (2019), 12.
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