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French TV seeks to unveil secrets of Okinawan “yuta”

Date Posted: 2002-10-04

A film crew from a French TV channel visited Okinawa from Sep. 21 through 27 to make a documentary of Okinawan “yuta” or shamans. The crew spent time in Yaeyama and Taketomi islands and visited several locations in southern parts of Okinawa main island.

Members of the crew explained that currently there is a big boom in the public interest in shamanism in France. They had run across the concept of Okinawan “yuta” when they had filmed a documentary on the subject in Mongolia.

The crew had been told that believing in “yuta” is still alive and well in Okinawa, so they decided to come and cover the subject. During their stay, the crew interviewed several “yuta,” attended an annual Ryukyu Shimpo sponsored lecture on “The Psychology of Worship of Ancestors and Family” and even received traditional spelling treatment from on of their subjects.

Seiji Matayoshi, the TV crew’s Okinawan contact person, the kinterest in shamans and shamanism in so hot in France just now that many are invited from Africa for the purpose of casting spells and telling fortunes while in trance.

Although many younger people in Okinawa dismiss “yuta” and their skills as more or less old women’s tales, many older people still use their services when they have an important decision to make, or need advice on cures of mysterious illnesses.

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