This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursdays for September 15, 2011
Here's a couple of photos from a recent trip to Okinawa's Sefa Utaki. For those unfamiliar, an Utaki is a holy site in the local religion known as So Sen Su Hai. That roughly translated comes out something like "Therefore because of them, therefore us" or more simply put, we exist because of them. It's a form of ancestors worship that incorporates a little Buddhism, a little Shinto, A little Taoism, Confucianism and a couple of other "ism's" I probably haven't even heard of yet.
One of the things that make this place special is, in addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage site, the interesting rock formations and the super low entry fee of only 300 Yen is the history of the place. This is considered the most holy of all the utaki's in Okinawa and it served as the official site for several annual ceremonies during the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Lastly, the site overlooks Kudaka Jima a small island to the east of Okinawa where local legends have it that all life began.
To my knowledge, there are no longer any "official" ceremonies still held here but many locals will come here to pray and make offerings to the ancestors and the spirits when things aren't going too well on the home front. Given the hard economic times we all face, this place is likely to be a hot spot of spiritual activity for the foreseeable future. Word of advice, if you happen to visit and see some of the locals doing their thing, be respectful. It's their island and even if we have a different orientation to things spiritual, we should at least have the decency respect their ways.