sefa utaki sacred grounds

Sefa-utaki

斎場御嶽

Discover the most sacred natural place in the Ryukyu Kingdom

In Okinawa, utaki are natural, sacred places where people pray. Among them, Sefa-utaki was the most sacred place in the Ryukyu Kingdom. Leaders of the native faith were all women, and access to the site was strictly off-limits to men, with the exception of male members of the royal family. Sefa-utaki contains dense forests and rugged rock formations, and is a place where nature itself is worshipped as divine.

The spiritual epicenter of the Ryukyu Kingdom

sefa utaki sangui

During the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom, men outside of the royal family were not allowed to enter Sefa-utaki, and even the male royals that were permitted were required to dress as women to enter. The site was reserved for priestesses of the native Ryukyu faith, and many important ceremonies were conducted there such as the inauguration ceremony (oaraori) of the highest ranking priestess, the kikoeokimi. The oaraori featured a big parade, and priestesses from Shurijo Castle would stop and pray at a number of utaki sites on their journey to Sefa-utaki.

That royal family had strong ties to Sefa-utaki, and kings would often visit on a pilgrimage (agariumaai) that took in multiple utaki, to pray for the prosperity of the kingdom and for bountiful grain harvests. Rooms at Shurijo Castle are even named after places of worship at Sefa-utaki, demonstrating the depth of the connection with the kingdom.

Religion and nature

sefa utaki ujo guchi road

After walking up the Ujo-guchi stone-paved road, which leads into the sacred grounds of Sefa-utaki, visitors come to a massive rock. This is the first place of worship, called Ufuguui, which means “large hall.” After passing Ufuguui, you arrive at Yuinchi, where the deity of the hearth is enshrined. The name has connotations of a bountiful harvest, and the royal cooking quarters at Shurijo share the same name. Continuing into the heart of Sefa-utaki brings you to Sangui, a triangular tunnel formed by two gigantic rocks leaning against one another. Two stalactites hang down from overhangs nearby, and pots are positioned to catch the sacred water that drips from them.

Amamikiyo and Sefa-utaki

sefa utaki kudaka island

Many myths of the Ryukyu Kingdom are related to the east, where the sun rises. To the east, Kudaka Island is revered as the spot where Amamikiyo, the creator deity of both the land and people of the Ryukyu Kingdom, first descended from the heavens. After going through the triangular tunnel of Sangui at Sefa-utaki there is a spot to pray to Kudaka Island, which is visible in the sea to the east.

Please be mindful while visiting Sefa-utaki

sefa utaki overhanging rocks

Sefa-utaki is a sacred place of spiritual importance to the people of Okinawa. The very rocks and stones of Sefa-utaki are sacred objects and should not be climbed, damaged, or removed. Enjoy Sefa-utaki by following a simple code of respect for the sanctity of the site.

Tour Sefa-utaki

One of the best ways to learn more about the history and significance of Sefa-utaki is with a guided tour. Inquiries and reservations can be made online.

Transportation information
Sefa-utaki can be reached by bus or car. From Naha Bus Terminal, take the Shikiya Line Toyo Bus, and get off at Sefa-utaki Mae. The entrance is a short walk from the bus stop.
Contact information
Sefa-utaki
270-1 Chinenkudeken, Nanjo City, Okinawa 901-1511
098-949-1899
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