Before becoming the area of Okinawa Prefecture, these islands belonged to the Ryūkyū Reign. We can still see the remains of the past in this archipelago’s history and culture.
What follows is one of these heritages, Sefa-Utaki.
What’s special about Sefa Utaki?
The name of this site hasn’t been influenced by the Japanese mainland language: it comes indeed from two ancient local terms, “Sefa” meaning “highest point” and “Utaki”, designating a holy site to the Ryūkyū Islands belief.
This place’s name can be thus translated as “highest shrine“.
Sefa-Utaki is also called “Kimi-ga-take” and “Omo-ga-take no Ibi”: it is located in the southern part of Okinawa, about one hour far from Naha, in the town of Nanjō.
Close to the sea, surrounded by a luxuriant forest, you come to this holy site by walking among mysterious rocks and ancient roots.
Here we can find six Ibi (holy areas), hosting designed zones called Ufugui, Yuinchi and Sangui.
These names, which are specific parts of the sanctuary, can be also found at Shuri Castle. The two sites seem to have had a deep connection in the past, therefore they are both registered as UNESCO World Heritages.
In the holy area there are some structures, the first that the visitors can see is on the left, after entering the Ufugui. This is a wide pedestal, which was used to pray.
Sangui is perhaps the symbol of the whole complex: two gigantic rocks, laying one on each other, create a small triangular tunnel.
How to get to Sefa Utaki
Click here to see how to get there.
We visited Sefa-Utaki in September, during one of our trips to Okinawa.
Along the road we encountered the Nirai Kanai Bridge. this is considered a one of the most iconic scenic road: it is a must-see spot, at least for those who are travelling by car. Unfortunately, the typhoon of those days didn’t let us enjoy the wonderful panorama.
We left the car at Sefa-Utaki’s parking lot and reached the entrance a few steps later.
Our knowledge of Okinawa’s ancient religion is not that deep, but we could immediately feel a big difference between this site and Buddhist or Shintō ones.
Every spot is explained by interesting panels, in Japanese and English. These are very easy to understand, we appreciated this complex even more after reading them.
Walking around Sefa-Utaki felt like exploring a jungle: what you see all the time is palm trees and rampant plants. So you ask yourself if this is still Japan.
When we reached the Ufugui, we felt that the atmosphere was quite mysterious. There’s no wooden structures, as one could expect from any Shintō shrine. Everything is made of carved stones, that create an ancestral environment.
By going a bit further we came by the rocks of Sangui.
This is the most characteristic part of the whole site, it is said that at the moment you pass under the rocks you enter another world.
On the other side of the tunnel, among the trees, you can behold the sea and an Island in the distance, in a gorgeous view. We could then understand why the inhabitants of these place believed that this was a land of deities.
Okinawa is very popular for its sea and its resorts. To those who visit the island, we suggest to include some Ryūkyū cultural sites as Sefa-Utaki.
- Hikone Castle - 彦根城