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[A Stroll Through the Legends of Okinawa] The Birth Legend of Sho Hashi ~Nanjo City~
post : 2020.10.31 07:00
Around the 14th century on the main island of Okinawa, before the establishment of the Ryukyu Kingdom, the three spheres of influence known as Sanzan (literally meaning “three mountains”), made up of Hokuzan to the north, Chuzan at the center, and Nanzan in the south, were in fierce competition for power. The Sanzan period lasted for about a century until Sho Hashi unified the Ryukyus in 1429. Nanjo City in the southeastern part of the main island of Okinawa is known as the birthplace of Sho Hashi, and the city is dotted with many places related to this great historical figure. In this article, I will introduce some of the places related to the legend of Sho Hashi's birth.
At the center of Ibi-no Mori forest is a giant tree with an overwhelming presence.
"Ibi-no Mori" is located in Sashiki Shinzato, Nanjo City. The village's deity, "Ibi no Utaki," is enshrined here, in the forest that is called Ibi-no Mori. The five sacred places of worship, including "Baten Utaki," which was buried due to the damage caused by Typhoon Charlotte that occurred in 1959, have been moved and enshrined at Ibi-no Mori". Baten Utaki enshrines Samegawa Ufunushi, the grandfather of Sho Hashi.
After the natural disaster of 1959, the sacred Baten Utaki was moved from the residential site of Samegawa Ufunushi and enshrined at Ibi-no Mori forest.
Born on Iheya Island located to the northwest of the main island of Okinawa, Samegawa Ufunushi moved to Baten and lived there as a fisherman. One day, when he went to Ozato Village sell his catch, he caught the eye of Oshiro Aji (chieftain) who hailed from a powerful clan, and Samegawa Ufunushi married his daughter and became the son-in-law of the Aji.
The residential site of Nashiru Ufuya, the father of Sho Hashi, still remains in Sashiki-Sashiki, Nanjo City. The name, Sashiki-Sashiki isn’t a typo. Up until 2006 when the towns were brought together to form one city of Najo, the area was Sashiki, Sashiki Town, Shimajiri-gun. The area kept its old name and became Sashiki-Sashiki, Nanjo City.
Samegawa Ufunushi and his wife were blessed with one son and one daughter, and the boy came to be known as Nashiru Ufuya, and the girl became the Baten Noro. * Noro is a priestess who presides over the rituals of the village.
At the far left is the Tsukishiro-no Iwa rock, and Tsukishiro-no Ka spring. There are no noticeable paths and the area is surrounded by vegetation.
When Nashiru Ufuya grew up to be young man, he fell in love with a daughter of Misato-no Shi, who was an influential figure in Shashiki, and the young couple became lovers without the consent of her father. Eventually, a child was born between the two, and this was Sho Hashi. Many believe that the birthplace of Sho Hashi is "Tsukishiro-no Iwa (rock)", which is located behind the residential site of Nashiru Ufuya, and that the "Tsukishiro-no Ka (spring)", situated just below the Tsukishiro-no Iwa, was where water was collected for the Ubuyu (the baby’s first bath).
Tsukishiro-no Iwa and Tsukishiro-no Ka, the legendary place where Sho Hashi is said to have been born in 1372.
The daughter of Misato-no Shi and mother of the newborn Sho Hashi and could not tell her father about her baby and in desperation, tries to kill the child. Then, according to legend, an old, gray-haired man appeared and said, "This child is a very special child, "and he delivered the baby to Nashiru Ufuya. Sho Hashi was saved by an old man at that time, but Misato-no Shi's daughter was still distraught, and decides to take the baby Sho Hashi somewhere out of sight, where nobody could find him.
There are two places in Nanjo City where Misato-no Shi's daughter is said to have abandoned Sho Hashi. One is "Tsukishiro no Iwa and Ka", which is said to have been the birthplace of Sho Hashi. The other is "Amachijo Gama", a cave in Tamagusuku Kirabaru, closeby from the top of Shinzatobira. What they have in common is that although they are only a short distance from public roads, they are still left untouched and covered with lush nature to this day.
At the entrance to the Amachijo Gama cave, I came across a ginger lily (Gettoh) that was blooming out of season.
Although she felt she had to abandon her baby, Misato-no Shi's daughter still had the heart of a mother. She worried about her child, and a few days later, went to the place where she left her newborn son. Then, to her surprise, she saw a dog feeding the baby, and a swan holding him in its wings, and the child was growing strong and healthy.
A narrow trail like a green tunnel that leads to the Amachijo Gama cave.
The daughter, who witnessed her abandoned child being raised by animals, finally thought, "This child really is a special child," and confessed everything to her father, Misato-no Shi. Upon hearing his daughter’s confessions, Misato-no Shi finally acknowledged the relationship between Nashiru Ufuya and his daughter, and the two happily married. The couple were finally able to proudly raise Sho Hashi as their son.
The exterior of the Amachijo Gama cave. It is surrounded by large rocks and lush greenery.
Sho Hashi was born in 1372 and died in 1439. For more than 500 years, many people have visited this site, offering respect and prayers for Sho Hashi. There was a solemn atmosphere in the air at this place of worship, illuminated by the sunlight that poured through the trees.
The word Gama in the name Amachijo Gama, is Okinawan for natural ‘caves’. Farther in from the area of worship leads to a cave.
[A Stroll Through the Legends of Okinawa]
Both the "Tsukishiro-no Iwa/Ka" and the "Amachijo-Gama" are places where the nature of Okinawa remain untouched. You can see that the narrow trails were made by the feet of those who have visited here, but you’ll find little else that suggests that these are the paths to these special places. Walking alone in the green tunnel to the places of worship, I was a little nervous that I might come across a poisonous Habu snake. Please be careful when you visit, too. Only a short distance from towns and villages nearby, these sacred places are reminiscent of the bygone eras, and you’ll certainly feel the magic and serenity of the locations.
[Taking a Stroll Through the Legends of Okinawa]
■ Ibi-no Mori / Shinzato Sashiki, Nanjo City, Okinawa Prefecture
■ Site of Nashiru Ufuya Residence: Sashiki Sashiki, Nanjo City
*There is an information board at the entrance. The map shows the location of the sign.
■ Tsukishiro-no Iwa/Ka: Sashiki Sashiki, Nanjo City
*Behind the Site of Nashiru Ufuya Residence.
■ Amachijo-Gama: Kirabaru, Tamagusuku, Nanjo City
*About 10 minutes on foot from Prefectural Route 137.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Mika Asaka