Sefa-UtakiPosted: September 30, 2011
So the other day, we load up in the SM-X and head towards Peace Prayer Park. Hannah had been there on a field trip last year and was impressed. After a quick lunch at the Brazilian steak house, we set off. Somewhere along the way, we took a wrong turn. Easy enough to do in Okinawa. Streets are not always marked well, and street signs…well let’s just say they can be less than accurate. As we made our way around the south end of the island, I spotted Sefa-Utaki. We had previously tried to find this place with no luck. I figured it was as good a time as any.
Pulling in to the parking lot, I had high hopes. It was full. That is usually a good sign in Okinawa. Sefa-Utaki is the holiest site in Okinawa and a World Heritage Site (like every thing here). It was the place where the priestesses of the Ryukyu court performed rituals, told fortunes, and did other religious business for the kings. I figured it would be a fairly cool place. Heck, Okinawa magazine had even done a feature on it a few months ago, so it had to be worthwhile.
Now before I say it wasn’t worth it, I guess I just expected something different. The whole place is really small. The Welcome Center was about the size of my bedroom. Okay, maybe it was a little bigger than that but not by much. They had 3 artifacts. A bowl, some coins, and a few golden claw looking things used in fortune telling. After the underwhelming reception area, there is a treacherous path up into the jungle. This is not a place to go when it is raining or damp. The walkway is steep and slippery on a completely dry, sunny day. I had trouble with a good pair of sneakers on, although there were several Japanese women with high heeled platform type (hooker) shoes on making the trip look easy. Guess I’ve got no skillz.
The site itself is split up into 3 areas, a small platform where the priestesses were ordained/blessed, an area for ceremonies related to fortune telling and new year’s offerings, and the most sacred area pictured below.
The opening is pretty interesting. That is not a perfectly flat surface, but it is close. I always wonder how things like this “occur” in nature. I’m sure those guys on Ancient Aliens would say higher beings came to the Okinawans and helped them make that opening or some such nonsense. Whatever the explanation, it is cool. Through the rock passage is a small area with a good view of the Pacific. Not much else to the whole site.
Overall, I would say that it is not a place to kill a whole day. There is very little to see, it was crowded with tourists, and it was difficult to take pictures because of the lighting in the jungle. It took less than 30 minutes to see the entire thing. I am glad we did it though, even if it was only to see the rather impressive selection of vending machines in the parking lot! If you are lost on the south side of the island with nothing to do, you could do worse.