Translated by Lester Somera
Visit Sefa-Utaki, The Holiest Spot in Okinawa!
Written by Keisuke Yamada
The holy place Sefa-Utaki, located in Okinawa, has long been a worship site for Okinawan people, and its historical significance is recognized by UNESCO.
Okinawa, Japan’s resort getaway, has plenty of sightseeing highlights and fun activities; visitors can swim in the blue ocean, eat Okinawan soba, and visit Shūri Castle, to name just a few.
This time we will introduce a particularly special place that stands out from the other tourist spots on Okinawa: Sefa-Utaki, which is registered as a World Heritage site. Sefa-Utaki was a sacred venue for religious rituals back in olden times, when Okinawa was known as the kingdom of Ryūkyū.
First, Buy a Ticket
You cannot buy a ticket for Sefa-Utaki at its entrance. The Nanjō City Regional Product Promotion Center, located seven minutes away, sells the tickets.
Admission is 300 yen for an adult, and 150 yen for a child.
This is the admission ticket. The symbol of Sefa-Utaki, Sangu-i, is printed on it.
Once you buy a ticket, head to Sefa-Utaki. The entrance is marked by this boulder.
Venture into Sefa-Utaki’s Sacred Space
This building is the entrance to Sefa-Utaki. Show your ticket to the staff here. Once you enter the building, watch the video being played inside. You can learn about Sefa-Utaki in advance, and get a crash course in proper worship manners at the same time (languages other than Japanese available).
After you watch the video and exit the building, the road continues from here.
This is Ujōguchi, the start of the road approaching the shrine.
Continue a bit further and you will see this pond. Even in the summertime, this temperature in this spot is a little lower than in other places, and you will feel cool air.
This is Ufugu-i, the first place of worship, which can be seen on the left as you ascend the path from Ujōguchi. Ufugu-i means “reception hall” or “first seat,” and there are places to pray here.
After you see Ufugu-i, continue forward. The road will grow narrower and narrower.
Take a Break at Yuinchi
This is Yuinchi, located on the opposite side of Ufugu-i’s boulder after you circle around it. Yuinchi means “kitchen” or “place of good harvest.”
In the past, Okinawa prospered as a place for foreign trade. This is where goods from all over the world were gathered, so it was certainly a place of good harvest. Yuinchi is a holy area, so be careful; absolutely do not climb on the boulder.
After you’ve seen Yuinchi, double back to the path you came from.
In order to get to Sangu-i, the centerpiece of Sefa-Utaki, you will pass through this tunnel of trees.
The Pots of Shikiyodayuru and Amadayuru
Emerge from the trees and this amazing view will unfold before you. Sangu-i is straight ahead, but stop for a second and look to your right.
These are the pots of Shikiyodayuru and Amadayuru, which have been placed here to catch the holy water dripping from two stalactites.
Both of them are vessels for holy water, so be careful; absolutely do not touch them.
This is the main part of Sefa-Utaki, Sangu-i. The two stalactites and the open space at the end of the triangular rock are each places to pray. Many people come to visit, so if you want to take pictures without people present, you should go as early as possible.
This is what it’s like inside Sangu-i. Since it’s a power spot, here you can feel the place’s holy atmosphere.
Head to the back of Sangu-i and look out at the sea, and Kudakashima will come into view. Kudakashima is known as a holy island, so by all means, visit it for yourself.
Did we pique your interest in visiting Okinawa’s holiest spot, Sefa-Utaki? Recognized as a World Heritage site, it is only getting more and more attention.
By the way, there are two times a year when entry into Sefa-Utaki is not permitted, in order to protect the sacred area: June 5 to 7 and October 31 to November 2 in 2016, and May 26 to 28 and November 18 to 20 in 2017. Avoid making plans to visit during these times.
Address: Okinawa, Nanjō-shi, Chinen, Kudeken 270-1
Hours: 9:00-18:00(Last entry at 17:30)
Credit cards: No
Access: From Naha Airport, one hour on local roads via car
Price: 300 yen (adults) / 150 yen (children)