The birthplace of Okinawa’s spiritual past is located on the Chinen Peninsula, just an hour’s drive from Naha. This peninsula feels like a different world, offering a glimpse into the dawn of Okinawan history. One of the must-visit sites on the peninsula is Seifa Utaki, where small places of worship blend in harmony with the rocks and trees. This sacred place has been revered by Okinawans throughout the ages and holds great significance in the island’s spiritual traditions.
According to the first written history of Okinawa, Seifa Utaki is believed to be the place where the goddess Amamikiyo descended to Earth to give birth. It is said that she went on to populate the islands with her Amamikiyo descendants. This legend adds to the mystical atmosphere surrounding Seifa Utaki and makes it a truly special place to visit.
As you explore Seifa Utaki, you’ll come across various places of worship scattered among the rocks. One notable feature is the Sangui formation, a triangular rock formation that holds symbolic meaning. Look out for two jars beneath two great stalactites near the Sangui formation, as they are believed to have spiritual significance. Along the trail, you’ll also discover many more prayer spots where visitors can offer their own prayers and connect with the spiritual energy of the place.
Adjacent to Seifa Utaki is the ruins of Chinen Castle, the second oldest castle in Okinawa. Built over 700 years ago, the castle now stands as a ruin but efforts have been made to slowly restore it. Chinen Castle offers a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and Kudaka Island, which is located about 3 kilometers offshore. This strategic location was chosen for the castle due to its commanding view and defensive advantages. Exploring the ruins of Chinen Castle allows visitors to envision its past grandeur and immerse themselves in Okinawa’s rich history.
For those interested in further historical exploration, Tamagusuku Castle, Okinawa’s oldest castle, is just a short 15-minute drive south on Route 331. Unlike Chinen Castle, Tamagusuku Castle remains unrestored, allowing visitors to imagine its former glory. Although in ruins, the castle still holds an air of majesty and offers a glimpse into the island’s ancient past.
Another fascinating destination near the Chinen Peninsula is Kudaka Island. According to legend, Kudaka Island was created by the goddess Amamikiyo after her descent to the human realm. The kings of Okinawa used to visit the island to pray to the spirits of their ancestors. Today, visitors can retrace their pilgrimage by taking a high-speed ferry from Chinen. The Chinen Marine Leisure Center offers tours of the coral waters surrounding the island, allowing visitors to explore the rich marine life of the area. Additionally, the island is known for its unique festival called Izaiho, where women between the ages of 30 to 69 participate as shrine maidens. This festival only takes place once every 12 years, in the Year of the Horse, making it a rare and special event.
While exploring the Chinen Peninsula and its surrounding areas, don’t miss the opportunity to try the local specialty dish of irabu, or sea snake soup. This dish is known for its high nutritional value and invigorating properties. It’s a unique culinary experience that showcases the island’s rich cultural heritage and connection to the sea.
To reach Seifa Utaki, you can take the 38 bus on the Shikiya Line from Kamiizumi, which is just a one-minute walk from Naha Bus Terminal. The bus ride takes approximately one hour and stops at Seifa Utaki Iriguchi. If you prefer to drive, you can take Route 329 out of Naha heading east and connect to Route 331. Seifa Utaki is located just off Route 331 on the Chinen Peninsula. The drive takes about 45 minutes, but it’s important to plan your trip around the ferry times if you also want to visit Kudaka Island.
In conclusion, the Chinen Peninsula offers a unique and immersive experience into Okinawa’s spiritual past. From the sacred grounds of Seifa Utaki to the ancient castle ruins of Chinen and Tamagusuku, there is much to explore and discover. The connection to the goddess Amamikiyo and the legends surrounding the area add an element of mystique and wonder. Additionally, the opportunity to visit Kudaka Island and participate in the rare Izaiho festival further enriches the cultural experience. Whether you’re interested in history, spirituality, or simply seeking a serene and tranquil escape, the Chinen Peninsula is a destination that shouldn’t be missed.
Address And Maps Location:
Chinen, Nanjo-shi, Okinawa-ken