I’m no expert on Okinawan religion, and the facts seem to vary a lot depending on who you ask, but here’s a brief explanation of a ceremony I photographed last week on Kouri Island.
Okinawa’s native religion is ancestor worship, and the most important spiritual leaders are women. They are called either noro, yuta, or the more general term kaminchu. Ayako Toguchi is a spiritual leader on Kouri Island, I met her once before at the Unjami Festival. A friend pointed out on this visit that the mural in the shrine office of a woman flying through the air with a dragon is actually a portrait of Toguchi-san.
April 3rd, is the third day of the third month in the Okinawan calendar, and a special ceremony was held at Sururu Gama (Sururu Cave) on Kouri Island. The cave is only accessible at low tide, after a scramble down to a hidden beach.
Even at low tide the entrance must be cleared of rocks and sand before you can enter the cave.
After entering the cave, offerings of rice, incense, paper money and awamori (Okinawan rice liquor) were prepared. Then Toguchi-san put on her white robes and offered prayers.
A fascinating insight into a rarely seen part of traditional life on Okinawa.