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Sefa Utaki ensured happiness of Ryukyu Kings

Date Posted: 2002-07-13

During the Ryukyu Kingdom days Sefa-Utaki was the holiest site in Okinawa. It was the first place where the king visited after ascending on the throne, and it was where the highest priestess in the kingdom, Kikoe Okimi, performed sacred rituals. Kikoe Okimi herself was a member of the royal family as only the kingís mother, sister or daughter could hold the office.

The date of the foundation of Sefa Utaki is in the mist of ancient history, but the official chronicle of the Ryukyu Kingdom, Chuzan Seikan, describes that it was one of the ritual sites created by Amamiku, the god that created the Ryukyus.

The first Kikoe Okimi priestess of Sefa Utaki mentioned in the chronicles performed her rites in 1470 when King Sho-en ascended on the throne and started the second Sho Dynasty. The event must have been quite a sight as, according to a written account, the kingís entourage included 138 horse and 2,573 servants. The official rituals at Sefa Utaki continued until 1879 Meiji Restoration did away with the king and the Ryukyu Kingdom and made it Okinawa Prefecture.

During the Ryukyu Kingdom era, men were not allowed to enter further than to the entrance. Only female priestesses were allowed to enter the Sefa-utaki sacred hill and forest where the guardian deities and nirai gods, who bring happiness, were believed to live. To this day, it is a place where local people visit and pray for their fortune.

Archeologists have discovered plenty of 14th century jewelry from the site including Chinese bronze vessels and coins. Sefa Utaki is currently designated a World Heritage Site. To get to Sefa Utaki, go south on Hwy 329 on the islandís east coast. At Yonabaru turn right on Hwy 331 and continue through Sashiki and Chinen. After you pass Hotel Runrise Chinen at the beach and a small bus terminal, watch a sign that points to Sefa Utaki to the right. After passing a senior citizensí home you come to a parking lot. From there follow a path up the hill.

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