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Friday, October 7, 2011

"Agami Shrine in Ginoza"

Agami Shrine in Ginoza

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Agami Shrine in Ginoza

     N 26 28.598E 127 58.433

Agami Shrine in Ginoza

This is the Agami Shrine in Ginoza (also known as the Machougama Shrine). It is not too far away from Highway 329 and the Okinawa Expressway (Exit 9). To be honest, difficulties in the translation for this site had delayed early submission of this post. There were nuances that made it quite difficult at first. But after much discussion with various locals, I think the below translation best describes the origin of this shrine.
The Agami Shrine in Ginoza (Sokei District) (Shrine, Machougama Utaki)

The tree area surrounding the Agami Shrine in Sokei is believed to be where the  ancestors (Sokei or Ginoza?) first came from. Near this shrine, there were old houses and lots. With Agami hilltop in the center, new houses started to build apart from the old ones toward the shore. Long ago during a festival, a Noro (shamen), a female playing a role of a god dressed in white, would pray here for rich soil during harvest season.

During World War II, part of the 'spirit' from the Naminoue Shrine in Naha was taken and placed in the Agami Shrine in Sokei so Okinawans from that area could pray for safe return from the war*. Later, Agami Hilltop was designated as a shrine.  Agami Hilltop has the characteristics of Yanbaru (Northern area of Okinawa) with oak and old trees which is covered with abundance of greenery (woods).

(Sokei Journals) March, 2006. Village, Board of Education

*It is important to note that some Okinawan men were directed to fight for Japanese Army during World War II.

Some of the difficulties with the translation were related to the different contextual meanings of a word. For example, in the Japanese version of the inscription, they used the Kanji 'Yama', which to many foreigners is mostly understood as a 'mountain'. But 'Yama' could also mean 'peak' or 'hill'.  The Agami shrine is built on a hilltop and from there the elevation does decline to the shoreline. At first this is not obvious due to the surrounding buildings. But once we made the connection from 'Yama' to 'hilltop' the more and more it began to make sense. The above translation does lead to another question of religious protocol; How does a spirit or portions thereof go from one shrine to another? I am sure there is a ceremony of some sort. It is yet another item of a long list of items of Okinawa mysteries that I hope to solve.

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