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Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Hajiusui Monument

The Hajiusui Monument

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The Hajiusui Monument

     N 26 37.213E 128 05.088

The Hajiusui Monument (恥うすい碑), Nago City

Along a stretch of road that crosses from Nago City to Higashi Village is a monument dedicated to an old legend. It is a story about two lovers; about a man and a woman in a romantic entanglement, whose lives would be short lived as their fate would parallel that of another familiar tale, Romeo and Juliet.
Long ago, there was a man from Genka and a woman from Arume that had fallen in love. Though they both lived far away, the great distance was not enough to keep the two lovers from seeing each other. In secret, the two would always meet at a certain time along a trail that connected the two villages.
But one day the man did not show. Puzzled and worried, the woman decided to look for him in his village. She eventually found him (at a place called yagamayaa). But what she saw left her heartbroken. She had found him with another woman. The man had been carousing all day, and in his drunken state, his wits had left him. Whether he had realized it or not, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. The shattered woman had seen it all.

She scurried back along the trail to the very place they would meet...and in a broken state of mind, she took her life.

It was much, much later that the man had finally come to his senses. Realizing he had forgotten about his lover, he too hurried back in a desperate rush. But what he saw next left him in utter disbelief. There, a motionless body, his lover... forever gone. Grief-stricken with guilt, the man could do only one thing.

He would follow her in death.
Epilogue. The story is believed to have taken place some time during the Meiji Period.(2) Since then, nearby villagers would lay leaves and branches along the trail near the location their bodies were found – an act of symbolism to cover their bodies. The expression Hajiusui (恥うすい) contains both Japanese and Okinawan words. In Japanese, Haji (恥) means shame and usui (うすい) is Okinawan meaning to cover.(2)(i) Hajiusui could then be interpreted as “the covering of one's shame”. It was said that when a traveler found the dead lovers, they were lying side by side naked. Metaphorically speaking, covering the naked bodies was to cover their shame.

The Trail. Behind the stone monument are cement steps that leads to a trail going east and west. However, going in either direction quickly becomes a dead end of overgrown vegetation. It is not certain by the author if this was part of the actual trail in the story or was created as an act of symbolism. The trail that once connected Arume and Genka is long gone replaced now by the current highway (Highway 14).

The Writing on the Stone. The writing on the stone monument is a poem. It gives a message to travelers about taking courage and having patience as you make the long journey up through the mountains.

A Forbidden Romance? There was no exact explanation given on why the two lover's had to meet in secrecy, or perhaps why their relationship was frowned upon. The Northern National Highway Department of Okinawa does give some background to the Hajiusui Monument on their website. They had mentioned that long ago in Okinawa, marriages between a man and woman from different villages was often met with disapproval. But it does not specify the reasons why. This opens up another interesting puzzle about old Okinawa and how societal views and family politics had a lot more to say about marriages than one's personal feelings.

i. Usui in the Japanese language means thin. The official highway sign uses Kanji and Hiragana to spell out Hajiusui (恥うすい). Typically, foreign words (to include the Okinawan language) are written in Katakana. However, for certain specialty signs (such as for advertising) it is not uncommon to see foreign words written in Hiragana. For example the word tobacco is sometimes written in Hiragana as とばこ versus its Katakana counterpart トバコ.
ii. There may be different versions of the Hajiusui Monument. This particular version was derived from the Nago City Memorial Information Handbook. See reference.

1. Nago City Memorial Information Handbook, Nago City Board of Education, March 31, 2001, Pg 136 (Japanese)
2. Website, Cabinet Office, Okinawa General Bureau, Northern National Highway Department

Directions/Parking. The Hajiusui Monument is in the northern part of Nago City and is right next to Highway 14. Take Highway 58 north into Nago City then head east on Highway 14 for about 3.5 km. You will see a highway sign with the words "Hajiusui" on it. The Monument will be on the right hand side. A small parking lot is available, however, the entrance way is slightly damaged. Please use caution when turning into the lot.

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