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Hamahiga Island is cradle of Okinawan culture

Date Posted: 2002-06-23

According to Okinawan mythology Hamahiga Island on the east coast of Okinawa north of Katsuren peninsula is the place where Okinawan civilization was born.

That’s where a female God Amamichu and a male God Shirumichu settled after they were ordered by other gods to create Ryukyu Island (Okinawa). First they created the soil, stones, trees and flowers, and settled to live on the island as humans. They had five children, three boys and two girls. The eldest boy became a king, the second a warrior and the third a farmer. The older child became the chief priestess and the younger a priestess in charge of the village. That’s how Okinawan people got the rules to live by.

The grave of Amamichu is located on a small isle called Amonji. Her husband Shirumichu is also buried in the grave. Every New Year a Noro (priestess) accompanied by local residents visit the grave and pray for children’s health, good harvest and protection from natural disasters. It is also said that there’s a giant snake that awakens only at night and also visits people’s house while they’re asleep.

There’s also the Shirumichu Cave that is located on a hill in the jungle at the edge of the east coast of the island. According to the legend, Amamichu and Shirumichu lived their lives in this cave. Every year during the New Year holidays a Noro brings a small stone to the cave and places it into a pot that is kept in the cave. Two lit candles are also kept constantly at a small altar in front of the cave. Shirumichu Cave is considered one of the most important shrines in Okinawa.

Hamahiga Island was connected to mainland only a couple of years ago when a bridge connecting it to Henza Island and Okinawa Sea Road. The island has a population of 600 people and it is a part of Katsuren Town. On the island there are two villages on opposing sides. Roads are very narrow and none circles the island. Most residents are fishermen and farmers. There’s also a new Marine Resort Hotel Hamahiga (tel. 098-977-8088).

To get to Hamahiga, drive Hwy 329 northwest to Katsuren Peninsula. At Yonashiro Town turn left to Sea Road towards Ikei Island. At Henza, turn right on the bridge connecting to Hamahiga.

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