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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"The Weenuatai Ohaka - Kanna, Ginoza Village"

The Weenuatai grave sits inside a small cavity


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The Weenuatai Ohaka, Kanna Ginoza Village

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     N 26 28.594E 127 57.706




The Weenuatai Ohaka - Kanna, Ginoza Village


At the Yoriage Forest in Kanna, Ginoza Village, sits a historical tomb called the Weenuatai Ohaka (ウェエヌアタイのお墓). Ohaka is a Japanese term for tomb or grave. What is special about this grave is that it predates the very familiar turtle-back tombs that are often seen throughout Okinawa's landscape. It is composed of wood dating back around 1350 AD. The turtle-back tombs on Okinawa are believed to be first used around the 18th Century. Below is a summary of what researchers found inside the original grave:
130 bodies which included 58 male remains, 47 female remains, and 25 remains of gender unknown. Of that mixture, 40 were considered to be young adults, 6 young children, 17 toddlers, 11 infants, and 6 newborns.(1)
Additionally, 364 items were found...
288 man-made items and 76 natural items; Man-made items included hair pins, combs, rings, products made of shells, old money, a glass ball, tea cup, sake cup, and nails. Natural items included: two pieces of seashells and remains of a crab, dugong, dog, and a rat.(2)
The Weenuatai Ohaka has since been rebuilt with new and original pieces of wood. The tree in which the wood came from was said to be over 600 years old. Information provided by the Ginoza Museum mentions it was found in the 'Dakiyama Forest', but it wasn't exactly clear if the tree or the grave was found at this forest. Where exactly is the 'Dakiyama Forest' is not exactly certain at this time.(3)

Such wooden graves were said be the forerunner of the stone graves that are more familiar today, but exactly what part of Okinawa they were used is not quite clear. Many were hardly left due to the war and some where found in caves. Nails where not used to hold them together. 1912 was said to be the last time remains were put in the Weenuatai Ohaka. The refurbished grave is now made of 34 pieces of wood; of the 34, 17 are new pieces and 17 are from the original grave. A display replica of the Weenuatai Ohaka can be seen at the Ginoza Museum. See article on the Ginoza Museum.

Advisement. The Weenutai Ohaka is a grave. Please be respectful in mannerism. It rest highly visible off the main trail and sits in a small cave-like cavity. Villagers still come here to pay respects to their earlier ancestors. It is a place of meditation and reflection.

What to bring. To protect yourself from critters, it is highly recommended you wear long sleeves top and bottom, bring a pair of hiking gloves, a neck towel, and a hat. There is a lot of moisture in the area and it will attract a good amount of insects. Consider bringing bug repellent. Though the Weenuatai Ohaka sits off a well beaten path, it is recommended that you bring a guide stick to probe areas for snakes and to knock down spider webs should you decide to venture elsewhere.

Author's Notes.
1. It is believed that the rest of the remains belonged to older adults (speculation). Verification is required.
2. Interesting to note that dugong remains were found and makes one wonder to what extent and what role the mammals played in early Okinawa culture.
3. If the suffix 'yama' is the same 'yama' used to describe a mountain, then it is possible that the Dakiyama Forest belongs to a mountain range in the nearby area.
4. It is not clear what the meaning of the word 'Weenuatai' means.

Source of information. Leaflets provided by the Ginoza Village Museum (Japanese). Visions of Ryukyu: Identity and Ideology in Early-Modern Thoughts and Politics, Gregory Smits, 1999, Pg 83 (Turtle-back Tombs).

Related Articles. The Katana and the Ginoza Museum, Kanna's Mysterious Yoriage Forest.

Directions. The Weenuatai Ohaka is located at the Yoriage Forest which is part of the Kanna Village Park and is on the opposite side of Highway 329 from the Kanna Thalasso Resort. See the map for LandMarks.