|The Main Hall of the Futenma Shrine|
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|Futenma Shrine and Cave|
|N 26 17.572||E 127 46.624|
The Futenma Shrine and Cave
The Futenma Shrine is considered one of the major Shinto Shrines here on Okinawa. Many people come here to pray for various reasons, mainly for good fortune. It is accessible to all, but perhaps to get the most and best experience from visiting this shrine, is to bring a Japanese or Okinawan friend along with you. Having someone familiar with the customs can guide you through some of the traditional practices when attending such a sacred place. This might also be their first time attending this particular shrine as well. If you do go without any knowledge of the customs, just show proper etiquette as you would at any sacred place.
There are few simple things that you can do however. When you first enter go through the Torii Gate, give a slight bow as you enter. The Torii Gate symbolizes an entrance to a holy ground. Next you want to go to the 'purification fountain'. They have a pictorial demonstration board posted next to the fountain. Please go to this link of the “Awase Shrine” and go to the section called 'Steps to Purification'. The process is same.
When you go to the main hall, you will see an offertory box. It is not required, but if you wish to make an offering (10 or 100 yen is okay) you can do so. Once you drop your offering you bow twice then clap twice (quietly), then bow once again. Some people just bow and clap twice. Different sources may vary. You can also read the section called “How to Pay Reverence at a Shinto Shrine” here.
The Story. The office at the shrine does have an English write up of two legends pertaining to this shrine. Ask for one when you go there. The first legend is about a female deity or 'kami' named Megami. The legend goes as follows (paraphrased): there where two sisters that lived in area called Syuri. There were rumors that the eldest sister was a very beautiful women, but because of her devotion to spirituality, she had no desire to be seen in public. Her younger sister's husband wanting to see what she looked like took a peek. Realizing that she had been seen, “the older sister rushed out of the house in agony and into the cave, never to be seen again”. Since then, she had become a deity of the cave (quote was taken from that English write-up).
The second legend is about a male diety or 'kami' called Kumano. Legend has it that there was once a humble couple that lived in poverty many, many years ago in Nakagusku-son, not too far away from modern day Futenma. Because of their dire circumstances, the couple agreed that the wife work as a royal maid at Shuri Castle. Every evening after work, the wife would leave Shuri Castle and make the long journey to the Futenma Shrine to pay her respect. Then one day, the Kumano Kami, disguised as an old mountain man, visited the poor woman near the Futenma Shrine and gave her an item that was wrapped . He told her to hold it for him. Time went on and he had not reappeared for some time, so she prayed. One night he appeared to her in a dream and revealed who he was. He then told her that the special item was hers to keep as a reward for her perseverance. She then opened up the item and it discovered it was gold. Since then, the couple became prosperous and wealthy. Henceforth, people have become more devoted to the shrine.
Photographs. If you wish to take photographs of the main hall, please do so quietly from the outside looking in as to not create any disturbance inside. People go in to meditate and to pray. Sometimes there will be a prayer session going on. Avoid taking any photographs while inside the main hall sitting area, unless given special permission.
The Cave. You have to be granted permission to enter the cave. This is not difficult, however, you do have to ask. They will escort you in. This is a controlled environment and there is limited space in the cave so you may have to wait. If you can, please have a Japanese friend come with you to help explain some of the things you will see. I think you will get more out of this experience if you do so. If there is a special ceremony inside the cave then it may be closed off to the public at that time. Pictures are allowed inside the cave but please do so without creating any major disturbances. Please maintain a low voice and a sense of quietness at all times as you enjoy the peace. You are on sacred grounds.
Getting there. Getting there is not difficult. The shrine is just south of Camp Foster and Camp Buckner. However, the turn-off will sneak up on you. You can only enter when you are driving in the north lane of Highway 330. There is a middle divider blocking you if you are driving south. When you do turn off, it may not be apparent where you are supposed to pull in. There is a driveway to the right of the Torii Gate as you are looking at it. Drive through there and it will take you to the parking lot. Parking is free.