Photo:The Lady of Ginowan

The Tale of the Goddess of Morinokawa Springs, Okinawa

Okinawa has many interesting stories to tell. Travelling around the island you will find war memorials and spots of cultural and religious importance, where the rich history of the Ryukyu kingdom and the happenings of World War II are told. The ancient history of Okinawa is especially intriguing. It was once called the Ryukyu kingdom, which was an independent kingdom and ruled the Okinawan islands from the 15th to the 19th century. The kings that reigned during those years unified the islands and even had control over the Amami islands in Kagoshima.

The entrance to the Morikawa Park in Mashiki

One curious legend of the Ryukyu king's mother is told in the Forest Spring Morikawa Park in Mashiki, Ginowan. Entering the little park, the visitor is immediately greeted by a lush forest of green and a little stone path way to a fresh water spring that comes straight out of a rock. Beautiful illustrations on stone plates tell the story of the Lady of Ginowan, the guardian of the city, who wears a flowing dress and plays the flute. The spring is a restored historical well, where the Okinawans drew water for themselves.

The restored well

Here, the legend claims, a goddess, in some versions she is called an angel, came down from the heavens to bathe. She took off her celestial robe, (hagoromo) and put it to the side. Soon, the story goes, a farmer named Ufuya Okuma arrived at the well on his way home, spotting the beautiful woman. He secretly took and hid her dress and the goddess panicked. She couldn't return to the heavens without her robe. Ufuya then appeared and came to her rescue, not revealing that he was the thief of her heavenly garb. The farmer clothed her and took care of her. He wanted her to be his wife. She had nowhere to go without her robe so she agreed to marry him. She later gave birth to two children, a boy and a girl. One day, when the kids were still little, the goddess discovered her precious hagoromo in the storehouse of her husband. As she put it on, she flew back up to heaven and never returned. Her son, so the legend goes, grew up to be the great King Satto of Chuzan, who reigned as a Ryukyu monarch from 1355 to 1397.

The Ryukyu kingdom. Photo by user:kallgan on Wikipedia

The Ryukyu kingdom was divided into three areas during the 14th century. It had previously been ruled by local lords and chieftains. As Okinawa Honto island was split into three areas, the northern part, reaching from Hedo Point down to Yomitan was called Hokuzan (北山, Northern Mountain). The middle part of the island was called Chuzan (中山, Central Mountain) and reached from Yomitan all the way down to Naha. Nanzan (南山, Southern Mountain) then covered the southern tip of Naha and Itoman. Satto was the king of the Central Mountain Chuzan. He also started the Satto Line of kings.

Hogoromo by Kimura Buzan (1876-1942). Photo by Maculosae tegmine lyncis on Wikipedia

Today, the lady of Ginowan, the goddess, is the guardian of the city and a symbol often used to identify with Ginowan. Her picture is painted on walls and houses, even on maps of the city. Her story is told all over Asia as the legend of Hagoromo. Morinokawa Park is a great spot to experience her story and to relive the times of old when retrieving the water for daily use was only possible at public wells in the forest.

The Gate to the Netherworld

The visitor can explore the park, rest at the playground or even see the mysterious gate to the Netherworld. This gate  is a place of worship for many Okinawans as well and a historic war sight of WWII, since Ginowan was a major battle ground. Morinokoawa Springs is a true jewel in Ginowan and a must-see on one's travel throughout the island.

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