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Citizens angry as historic prayer spot is defiled

Date Posted: 2010-09-30

A Naha City prayer spot—a prayer location smaller than a shrine, but something found in every Okinawa district—has been destroyed by its owner, and citizens are up in arms.

The Kume area prayer spot has been a worship location for Okinawans for more than 400 years, with hundreds migrating to the site each day to offer prayers to the spirits. That’s changed as the man who entered into a rental agreement with Okinawa Prefecture for the property has destroyed it. Local residents say “Now we’ve lost the ground of spirits.”

The real estate developer obtained the property in a deal with Okinawa Prefecture last year, and prefecture officials made the rental contract. He bought the building and wanted to rent it, but the prayer spot was in front of the parking area. The purchaser wanted the spot removed. Prefecture tried negotiating with him, but he ignored their efforts and destroyed the prayer setting built in 1573 by a mainland specialist who was following the Goddess of Eloquences fro God.

“I have rented the land and bought the building,” the developer argues on his behalf, “but I can’t make any money with this place. I understand local residents pray here, but is that more important than my life?” he asks. Residents say no, and are demanding officials do something.

Okinawa Prefecture said the developer wanted to take the issue to court, and it was prepared to do so, too. The Prefecture agrees with area residents that the site should not have been damaged or destroyed without a legal basis, so “we have to discuss what to do.”

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