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Thursday, May 30, 2013

"The Grave of Two Frenchmen, The Oranda Baka"

An Easter Lily blooms in the foreground of one tombstones at the Oranda Baka

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Oranda Baka

     N 26 40.505E 127 59.938

The Grave of Two Frenchmen, The Oranda Baka

It is somewhat of a mystery on how deep and complicated the relationship the Ryukyus had with other countries, particularly when much of Okinawa's written and recorded history was destroyed at Shuri during the Great Okinawan Battle. Vestiges of history are sometimes told by the graves they leave behind. On Yagaji Island of Nago City, you will find the graves of Jacques Sallus and Francois-Charles Guitart, two Frenchmen that were laid to rest in June of 1846. The two men had died of an illness during their one-month stay as trade agreements between the Shuri Government and France were being negotiated. The ships (total of three) had anchored in what is known as present day Unten Harbor. Oranda Baka literally translates to as the Hollander's Grave. The word, 'Oranda' (オランダ) is the Japanese word for Holland (or Netherlands) and was derived from 'Uranda', a term used by the Old Kingdom to describe anyone that was a 'westerner'(1). Despite their true origins, Oranda now remains as part the two men's legacy today.

At the grave you will find tomb stones for both men. It reads below(1):

(Left Tombstone)(Right Tombstone)
NameJacques SallusFrancois-Charles Guitart
Country of OriginFranceFrance
Died on 11 June 1846Died on 20 June 1846

More Questions. As with any historical place, there are endless questions that are tied with it. Why were the negotiations held in Nakijin (a much farther location) and not closer to Shuri (near Naha port)? Was it negotiations out of secrecy? The Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education does summarize activities of 1846 in the following passage(2):
"British ship HMS Starling made landfall at Naha Harbor. The English missionary Barnard Bettelheim arrives in the Ryukyus for an 8-year stay. French ship Sabine lands in Naha with Pierre-Julien Le Turdu, successor to Focade. Later the French ships Cleopatoru and Victorious arrive at Unten Harbor seeking reply to the request made in 1844 for friendship and trade relations. They were refused by the Ryukyuans. Visit to Naha of three British fleet vessels. Consent was granted for the start of trade between the Satsuma-han and France."
As you can see, both France and Britain, were very much involved with activities in the Ryukyus during that period, and since the two countries 'seemingly' were competing for trade rights, separate port location (whether for secrecy or not) might have deemed best.

Epilogue. Jacques Sallus and Francois-Charles Guitart may have both been lowly crew members at the time of their passing, but their grave serves as reminder of a much larger relationship the Old Ryukyu Kingdom had with foreign countries. Since WWII, it has been local tradition that on the 24th of December a small memorial service is held their honor by the people of Utenbaru(1). It is not certain why the 24th of December was chosen.

Author's Note.
1. It is not clear on the third ship that ported in Uten Habor in 1846. (Possibly, the Sabine as noted in (Source 2)) 
2. The term Ohaka or haka (墓) means tomb. However, with the words 'Oranda Baka' the letter 'H' is omitted and replaced by the letter 'B'. This sometimes occurs in the Japanese language when certain words are affixed to another. For example, the word Kawa means river, but when sometimes affixed with a proper noun, the letter 'K' is dropped and replaced with a 'G' as in Hiji-gawa. It is not so much the sound of the word than it is the Kanji that describes the word's meaning.
3. Speculation. It is not certain what kind of illness the two sailors died of. It is the author's speculation that the decision to bury the men on land was an immediate one to prevent possible disease from spreading on the ship. Keeping the body on ship any longer may have been deemed risky. This part is not very clear.

Source of Information.
1. Translated Sign in English (on location) provided by the Nago City Board of Education
2. Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education Timeline (online)

Related Article. Japan Times: Memorial service held in Okinawa for French sailors

Directions/Parking. The grave is on Yagaji Island and can be reached by vehicle from the main island.The most direct route is to take Highway 58 into Nago City. From there you will want to take Highway 110 as if you were going to Kouri-jima Island. Initially you will be on the east side of Yagaji Island then Highway 110 will veer towards the western part of the island. Look for this LandMark sign that says 'Oranda Baka' in English. Once you make the turn, you will be headed towards a small port. Park there. Look for a trail that takes you away from the port. It will skirt the coast. You will see log rails from a distance as seen here. It is about a 300 Meter walk.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Niya-Thiya Cave (Sen-nin), Ie Jima Island"

Inside the Niya-Thiya Cave

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Niya-Thiya Cave (Sen-nin Gama), Ie Jima

     N 26 42.528E 127 46.307

Niya-Thiya Cave (Sen-nin Gama), Ie Jima Island

Near the southern coast of Ie Jima Island sits a large cave. In the present day, she is called Niya-Thiya Cave. To many locals, however, she is called 'Sen-nin Gama' which loosely translates to 'The Cave of 1000 People'. The name refers to the time of the Great Okinawan War where it said that over 1000 Okinawans living on Ie Jima hid as war raged on. It is claimed that no one died inside. But when asked about such stories, many Okinawans on Ie Jima often refer to another cave on the northeastern side called Ahasha Cave, where 150 Okinawans perished. Scroll through the map above to find Ahasha Cave. According to the Japanese sign on the outside of the Niya-Thiya Cave, around March of the Lunar Calendar a prayer ritual (lead by a female priestess as the sign implies) is held inside the Niya-Thiya Cave. Note: There has been conflicting information about such rituals on Ie Jima. Many local villagers have said that a noro (or noro-like person - female priestess) no longer exist on the island. Such rituals could be small in scale often confined to a small group of people.

The Pregnancy Stone. There is a legend of a fertility stone that sits inside the cave. This stone is believed to have a living god inside it. But the medium size stone is more than just a fertility stone. It is also believed that it can determine the gender of the newborn. According to legend, if a woman who picks up the stone feels that it is heavy, her offspring will be a boy. If the stone feels light, the baby will be a girl. These type of fertility stones are sometimes called Kodakara-ishi, (子宝石) which translates to as a 'Child Stone' meaning a form of jewel.

Note. In general, older Okinawan people may call any kind of special stone (believed to have a living god in it) as 'Bijiru' which is Okinawan dialect. The Bijiru Shrine in Awase of Okinawa City is another example where such a stone is said to exist.

Directions. The Niya-Thiya Cave is on Ie Jima Island which can be reached by a 30 minute ferry ride. Please read article about 'Traveling to Ie Jima' for travel information. The cave itself is well identified by a tourist sign marker. It sits along the main road (Route 181) on the southern coastline of Ie Jima.

What to Bring. Bring a camera, small towel. There are restroom facilities on location and a water source to wash away sand from the shoes. There will be a lot of mosquitoes in the area. Dress accordingly.

Source of Information. Japanese Sign outside Niya-thiya Cave (later translated into English)