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Thursday, March 28, 2013

"Legend of Yara Muruchi - Kadena"

The Bog at Yara Muruchi

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The Legend of Yara Muruchi

     N 26 22.160E 127 46.806

Legend of Yara Muruchi - Kadena

Legends of sinister snakes are not uncommon in Okinawa. From Yabu of Nago City to Matsuda of Ginoza Village, folk tales are often told of evil serpents that once preyed on the fears of nearby villagers. In the eastern part of of Yara of Kadena you will find another snake tale, the Legend of Yara Muruchi. The following story was provided in English by the Kadena Town Board of Education(1):
“The Muruchi legend reveals that in the era of King Gihon (13th Century), there was a giant serpent inhabiting an old marsh known as Moroki (Muruchi)...The serpent created strong heavy winds and brought calamity to the villagers. To quell the calamity, the villagers offered young girls as sacrifices.

One year, a very dutiful and obedient girl was chosen as a human offering. The girl was distressed with the thought of leaving her dear old mother behind, yet decided to become sacrificed in order to save the residents of neighboring villages. However, during the ritual of sacrifice, a heavenly deity appeared and slew the giant serpent.

When hearing this incident King Gihon became full with joy and crowned the girl as a wife for the prince. The princess lived happily ever after with her dear old mother.”
As you walk down the cement path you will see an alter-like structure facing the marsh, and on top is a mysterious centerpiece (stone cup-like holder) in the middle. This is one for the O-files and is not 100% certain if there is symbolism related to the legend and this structure.

Kumiodori (Traditional Okinawan Opera). Acccording to the Kadena Board of Education this legend formed the basis for 'Koko no Maki', one of Chokun Tamagusuku's five most popular traditional theater performances, better known as Kumiodori. Chokun Tamagusuku is considered the 'Father of Kumiodori' and first debuted this Okinawan opera-like performance in 1719(2). Kumiodori is listed as one of the Intangible Cultural Properties of Humanity under The United Nations UNESCO program(3).

King Gihon. A very mysterious figure from the Old Ryukyu Kingdom is King Gihon. For some reason after eleven years of rule, he left his throne, handing power over to King Eiso(4). It is believed he fled to the north, and his final resting place said to be in Hedo of Kunigami Village(5)(6) (location to revealed at an appropriate time). So why flee to Hedo? The book, Visions of Ryukyu, hints that the King may have stood down possibly because he himself believed the heavens were not pleased with his rule. It is said that during King Gihon's tenure there was great famine and disease, and in the days of the Old Ryukyu Kingdom, this might have been interpreted as a sign of displeasure from the gods(4)...and out of shame, King Gihon fled to parts unknown(6). Kitanakagusuku Village is also said to be another possible location of his final resting place(6) (location uncertain by the author). On February 20th 2013, the Kunigami Board of Education opened the tomb in Hedo for the first time to the public in an effort to use science and technology to determine the possible age of the remains. This post will be updated upon the Board's findings and results.

Author's Speculation. Given the distance of Yara and and King Gihon's throne (Tamagusuku region?), it is a wonder how King Gihon got wind of the story at Yara Muruchi in the first place. And since his rule was plagued with great misfortune, his involvement with Yara Muruchi simply could have been a desperate attempt to revive his kingdom with any good news he could possibly find, especially if the story involved an intervention from the heavens. There are no references or facts to support this theory. However, such political tactics have been used throughout history using stories of heroism to lift the morale of a nation. Other legends have it that King Gihon desperately offered himself as a sacrifice to the gods in order to bring rain to a much needed kingdom. And as legend would have it, heaven seemingly intervened once again, sparing King Gihon's life from being burned at the pyre as rain (just at the right moment) smothered the burning flames (6).

Source of information. 1) Legend of Yara Muruchi, Kadena Board of Education (sign in Japanese and in English) on location, 2) Kumiodori /Chokun TamaguskuOkinawa Prefectural Board of Education website, 3) Kumiodori UNESCO wesbite, 4) Visions of Ryukyu, 1999 Gregory Smits, pg 61, 5) Okinawa: People and Their Gods, 1969, James C. Robison, pgs 31,62, 6) Ryukyu Shimpo Online English Edition February 21, 2013.

Epilogue. King Gihon's burial tomb is a known historical location, however its location will not be listed on this website until all research and excavation has been completed by the Kunigami Board of Education.

Caution. The area, especially on the rocks near the marsh, is very slippery. Use extreme caution when walking on the entire premises to include the stairs. You will also see a sign in Japanese about the Alligator Snapping Turtle (wanigame, ワニガメ). This is a warning not to touch and if found please call the Japanese Animal Welfare Society at 098-945-3043 or the Kadena Town Office at 098-956-1111.

Directions/Parking. The Yara Muruchi location is located along Highway 74 in Kadena. Only the east bound traffic lane has access to the Muruchi entrance area. Look for this explanation sign at the entrance location. Past this on the eastbound lane you will see this LandMark (a road safety sign). Further to the east of this LandMark is a driveway where you can pull in and park (Green Thumbtack in the map). The driveway will be chained off but there is enough room to park your car safely off to the side. Please do not block the driveway since farmers still use this road to access their farms. Due to the high volume of traffic along Highway 74, it is not recommended you park your car along the side of the main highway. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Morinokawa 森川, The Forest River Spring - Ginowan City

The Mori-no-kawa Spring

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"Mori-no-kawa, Ginowan City"

     N 26 16.260E 127 44.453

Morinokawa 森川, The Forest River Spring 

Okinawa is full of natural springs. But in Ginowan City there is one source of water that has a 'heavenly' story behind it and the makings of a once great king. Welcome to Morinokawa (Mori-no-kawa 森川), the Forest River Spring.

The Legend of Hagoromo. It is said that long ago a farmer by the name of Ufuya Okuma was on his way home when he decided to stop by the Mori-no-kawa Spring. To his astonishment he discovered a very beautiful woman (an angel) bathing in the water and not too far, was her celestial robe (hagoromo) hanging on a tree. The farmer then took her heavenly garb and when the angel discovered her robe had mysteriously vanished she went into a panic – for she could not return to the heavens without it. Conveniently and seemingly out of nowhere, Ufuya came to the aid of the distressed woman, clothed her, and took her in. His ploy had worked! With no home to return to, she became the farmer's wife and would later give birth to two children, a boy and a girl.

Legend has it that, ' day the angel heard her little daughter singing a lullaby, “Don't cry baby. Toubins-hanin's (angel's wings) are hidden in the storehouse under the millet. Don't cry baby.” The angel rushed to the storehouse and sure enough, there she found her hidden robe.'(1)

Upon her discovery, the angel left to the heavens, never to return.

Her Children's Fate. What became of her daughter is not really certain at this time,...but legend has it that the son grew up and became a great king. He is none other than King Satto, a once great king of the Chuzan region, the central area of the Ryukyu Kingdom during the 14th Century.(2)

Epilogue. The Mori-no-kawa Spring is part of the a much larger park and there, you may see artwork of a celestial being. This represents the angel in the story. Also near the spring, you will see a monument in the form of a gate. This gate was first constructed in 1725 by the Ie Family in honor of the Legend of Hagoromo.(3)

Source of Information/Citation. 1. Legend of Hagoromo/King Satto, Pg 107, Okinawa Tourism Guide Book Revised Edition 1998, Published by the Bank of the Ryukyus International Foundation 2. King Satto's reign, Pg 62, Okinawa: The History of an Island People, George Kerr 3. Monument information, explanation sign on site, Japanese only).

Author's Note. The Okinawa Tourism Guide Book, Revised Edition 1998, uses the term “toubinsu” meaning a feathery robe and “toubins-hanin's meaning “angel's wings”. These are believed to be from the Okinawa language, but cannot be independently verified at the moment. Hagoromo is Japanese meaning an angel's garment.

Directions. Take Highway 58 into Ginowan City (not the 58 by-pass). You will see major signs both in English and in Japanese along Highway 58 directing you to the Mori-no-kawa Park. Once you make the turn from Highway 58 the road continues straight and then makes a bend to the right. Look for these arches on the left side of the road. As soon as the arch ends will be the entrance to the park. If you are going to fast the entrance will sneak up on you.

Friday, March 8, 2013

"A Nameless Waterfall, Kunigami Village"

A Nameless Waterfall in Kunigami

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A Nameless Waterfall, Kunigami

     N 26 42.005E 128 11.706

A Nameless Waterfall in Hama of Kunigami Village

Not too far from Hiji Falls in an area called Hama, is a much smaller waterfall. As of now, it remains nameless. It has all the resemblance of Fukugawa in terms of its size and beauty. It is not exactly a hidden waterfall with only a 10 minute trek from the road, and a small parking area in the vicinity almost seemingly built for it. The pool of water is as every bit as inviting as any other waterfall  here in Okinawa. There is one blemish to the scenery however, there is a small man-made conduit that is strung over the waterfall. Nevertheless, it is nice place to stop and have an enjoyable time with friends and love ones.

CAUTION. Though the trek is only about 10 minutes, it has its small dangers and may not be suitable for very young children. You do have to climb small areas to get to the waterfall. The greatest danger is slipping and falling. Parents use extreme caution with regards to your children. It highly recommended that you assume walking in water to get to the waterfall. Rocks may be slippery. Tennis shoes will not give you enough traction on slippery rocks.

Waterfall's Name. The staff at the Yanbaru Wildlife Center did not have a name for the waterfall and was later explained by a town historian that the reason it may not have an official name is because it sits along a nameless water stream too small to be designated as a river. Most waterfalls on Okinawa are named after the river stream they sit on i.e. Hiji Falls sits along Hiji-gawa river (gawa giving reference to a river). Local farmers may have given it their own names, but as of now, there is now official declaration. 

Directions. Take Highway 58 going towards Okuma of Kunigami Village. Take the entrance road that leads you towards Hiji Falls (Note: Hiji Falls is closed for renovation till April 2013). Your first LandMark will be the Y-Fork at the first Hiji Falls parking lot. Do not go into the Hiji Falls parking lot, instead veer left. Continue straight until you reach a major Y-Intersection 2 km later. Go right. You will past two bridges(designated by the Landmark Pins in the above map). After the second bridge your next LandMark will be a small water pipe (left-hand side) pouring fresh water near the road. Proceed with caution as local villagers come here to fill their water bottles. About 200 meters you will see a small parking area on the left side. The waterfall is to the left of the road.

Advisement. The road may taped off past this point near the parking lot due to extreme road damage ahead. You may not be able to continue past the parking lot. Driving Caution Alert as of March 8th 2013 (Please Read!). At some point en route a portion along the road had buckled and is extremely damaged. It sits along a curve and sneaks up on you if you are going to fast. Construction cones and markers have been put in place with a small detour around the damaged area, but you do have to watch on for oncoming traffic as the detour is for one car only. Please drive at a safe  and moderate speed.

Other Places of Interest Nearby. The Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center.

Other Waterfalls of Okinawa (沖 縄 滝).
Azaka Falls, Hira Falls, Meoto Falls, Ogimi Waterfall, Taa Waterfall, Todoroki Waterfall, Nameless Waterfall (Fukugawa II).