Seifa Utaki–In the Footsteps of the Goddess
In a quiet south east corner of Okinawa island, along a curving coastline, lies one of the island's most sacred places.
Back then, when Okinawa was the Kingdom of the Ryukyus, there was a strong focus on nature worship. The religion was governed by a team of high priestesses, who conducted ceremonies and rituals at Seifa Utaki. Only women were allowed to enter the area, and it is said that even the King of the Ryukyus could only enter the area if he dressed in women's clothing.
Seifa Utaki lies hidden away in the cool, shady forests of Nanjo, accessible via a small, stone footpath through the woods.
The walkway leads you to a number of shrines, built underneath or into the towering limestone cliffs, where the priestesses prayed and held ceremonies. At Seifa Utaki, no artificial elements were used, since the natural elements, such as sacred stones, caves, trees, and water, were considered to be too powerful.
The most striking part of Seifa Utaki is the massive rock formation, known as Sangui. Two huge slabs of rock had fallen towards each other, creating a unique triangular 'doorway'. Stalactites hang from the limestone, with water dripping slowly into vessels to be collected and used for rituals during New Years.
Once you pass through Sangui, you have a clear view of the blue ocean below, and Kudaka Island, the place where the story of all creation, according to ancient Okinawan folklore, begins. Kuadaka Island is the spot where Amamikiyo, the all powerful goddess, came down to earth, and populated the islands of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus (now known as Okinawa). In just after Sangui, there is a stone shrine where the priestesses would pray towards Kudaka Island and gather energy from it.
Seifa Utaki was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, and today has been made accessible to the public. There is now a parking lot, a visitor centre, and facilities. In the visitor centre you can watch a short video about the history of the area. The administrators ask that visitors be quiet and respectful while exploring, since it is still considered a place of active worship. Because of the bumpy stone path, you will need good walking shoes.
Entrance fees: 300 JPY for adults and 150 JPY for children
Opening hours: 9am to 6pm
Other Attractions In the Area
Most people fly into Okinawa and immediately go north to the big beach resorts. But the southern part of Okinawa has many tourist attractions to offer.
Nearby to Seifa Utaki is Azama Sun Sun Beach, just a five minute drive away, with stunning white sand and turqouise water for swimming. A bit further are Hyakuna Beach and Mibaru Beach, and the quaint Ojima Island, connected by bridge.
Okinawa World is an incredible site with huge underground caves which you can walk through, plus many arts and crafts experiences and workshops. Next door is the Valley of Gangala, a nature preserve with towering banyan trees and a cafe located inside a cave.
Take the time to explore all the sites that southern Okinawa has to offer!