Amamikyu

Amamikyu (阿摩美久[1] or 阿摩彌姑[2], Okinawan: Amanchuu), or Amekushin-otome-ōankami (天久神乙女王御神), is the creation goddess of the Ryukyu Islands in the Ryukyuan religion.

Tomb of Amamichu 03
Tomb of Amamikyu

Name

Amamikyu's name comes from the reading of the Chinese characters 阿摩美久 or 阿摩彌姑, which were most likely written ad-hoc for the Okinawan pronunciation. Readings can vary widely from Amamikyu, Amamikyo, Amamikiyo, Amamiko, Amamiku, Amamigu, Amamichuu, and Amanchuu. "Amamikyu" was used by George H. Kerr in his Ryukyu: Kingdom and Province Before 1945 in 1953.[3]

Creation myth

The beginning of Chūzan Seikan details the creation of the Ryukyu Islands. The Heavenly Emperor (天帝), who lived in the Heavenly Gusuku (天城), looked down on the world and saw that there were no islands, so he ordered Amamikyu (阿摩美久) to create the Ryukyu Islands. She asked for materials to build the islands, so the Heavenly Emperor sent Shinerikyu to bring her grasses, trees, and stones. She descended to Earth on Kudaka Island, and then made landfall on Okinawa Island on the spot of Sefa-utaki, and later built Tamagusuku Castle and Chinen Castle and a number of communities. She asked the Heavenly Emperor for materials to make people, but the other gods would not go down to Earth. Without sexual intercourse, she became pregnant by Shinerikyu (志仁禮久) and populated the islands. Some generations later, a "heavenly grandchild" named Tentei was born, who split Ryukyuan society into five classes with his three sons and two daughters: the first son was Tenson, who became the first King of Ryukyu; the second son became the first feudal lord (Aji); the third son became the first farmer; the first daughter became the first royal noro priestess; and the second daughter became the first village noro priestess.[4] Her final home was located at Minton Castle in Tamagusuku, Okinawa.

Historical legacy

Amamikyu's tomb is located on Hamahiga Island in Uruma, Okinawa.[5] Sefa-utaki is the holiest utaki site in the Ryukyuan religion. During the Ryukyu Kingdom era, the king and kikoe-ōgimi made an annual pilgrimage to the site from Shuri Castle to worship Amamikyu, facing Kudaka Island.

References

  1. ^ Shō Shōken. Chūzan Seikan (in Japanese). 1650.
  2. ^ Tei Heitetsu. Kyūyō (in Chinese). 1745.
  3. ^ Kerr, George. Okinawa:History of an Island People. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Publishing, 1958. 36.
  4. ^ Glacken, Clarence. The Great Loochoo. University of California Press, 1955. Pp 29-30.
  5. ^ http://www.nifee.net/piman/ha-rekisi.html
Amami Islands

The Amami Islands (奄美群島, Amami-guntō) is an archipelago in the Satsunan Islands, which is part of the Ryukyu Islands, and is southwest of Kyushu. Administratively, the group belongs to Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan and the Japan Coast Guard agreed on February 15, 2010, to use the name of Amami-guntō (奄美群島) for the Amami Islands. Prior to that, Amami-shotō (奄美諸島) was also used. The name of Amami is probably cognate with Amamikyu (阿摩美久), the goddess of creation in the Ryukyuan creation myth.

Chinen, Okinawa

Chinen (知念村, Chinen-son) was a village located in Shimajiri District, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. As of 2003, the village had an estimated population of 5,947 and a density of 602.53 persons per km². The total area was 9.87 km². On January 1, 2006, Chinen, along with the town of Sashiki, and the villages of Ōzato and Tamagusuku (all from Shimajiri District), was merged to create the city of Nanjō.

Kunigami, Okinawa

Kunigami (国頭村, Kunigami-son, Kunigami: Kunzan, Okinawan: Kunjan) is a village in Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. It occupies the north tip of Okinawa Island, with the East China Sea to the west, Pacific Ocean to the east, and villages of Higashi and Ōgimi to the south.As of 2015, the village has a population of 4,908 and a population density of 25.20 persons per km2. The total area is 194.80 km2.

List of goddesses

This is a list of deities regarded as female or mostly feminine in gender.

List of monarchs of Ryukyu Islands

The list of monarchs of the Ryukyu Islands extends from chief Shunten in the 12th century to the last king in the 19th century.

Noro (priestess)

Noro (祝女, sometimes 神女 or 巫女) (Okinawan: nuuru) are priestesses of the Ryukyuan religion at Utaki. They have existed since at least the beginning of the Gusuku Period (late 12th century) and continue to perform rituals even today. They are distinct from yuta (psychics), but are classified as kaminchu ("godly people").

Religion in Japan

Religion in Japan is dominated by Shinto (the ethnic religion of the Japanese people) and by Buddhism. According to surveys carried out in 2006 and 2008, less than 40% of the population of Japan identifies with an organized religion: around 35% are Buddhists, 3% to 4% are members of Shinto sects and derived religions, and from fewer than 1% to 2.3% are Christians.Most of the Japanese (50% to 80% considering degrees of syncretism with Buddhism, shinbutsu-shūgō) pray and worship ancestors and gods (神, kami, shin or, archaically, jin) at Shinto shrines or at private altars, while not identifying as "Shinto" or "Shintoist" in surveys. This is because these terms have little meaning for the majority of the Japanese, or because they define membership in Shinto organizations or sects. The term "religion" (宗教, shūkyō) itself in Japanese culture defines only organized religions (that is, religions with specific doctrines and required membership). People who identify as "non-religious" (無宗教, mushūkyō) in surveys actually mean that they do not belong to any religious organization, even though they may take part in Shinto rituals and worship.Some scholars, such as Jun'ichi Isomae and Jason Ānanda Josephson, have challenged the usefulness of the term "religion" in regard to Japanese "traditions", arguing that the Japanese term and concept of "religion" (shūkyō) is an invention of the 19th century. However, other scholars, such as Hans Martin Kramer and Ian Reader, regard such claims as overstated and contend that the terms relate to terminology and categorizations that existed in Japan prior to the 19th century.

Ryukyuan people

The Ryukyuan people (琉球民族, Ryūkyū minzoku, Okinawan: Ruuchuu minzuku), also Lewchewan or Uchinaanchu (沖縄人, Japanese: Okinawa jin), are the indigenous peoples of the Ryukyu Islands between the islands of Kyushu and Taiwan. Politically, they live in either Okinawa Prefecture or Kagoshima Prefecture. Their languages make up the Ryukyuan languages, considered to be one of the two branches of the Japonic language family, the other being Japanese and its dialects.Ryukyuans are not a recognized minority group in Japan, as Japanese authorities consider them just a subgroup of the Japanese people, akin to the Yamato people. Although unrecognized, Ryukyuans constitute the largest ethnolinguistic minority group in Japan, with 1.3 million living in Okinawa Prefecture alone. There is also a considerable Ryukyuan diaspora. As many as 600,000 more ethnic Ryukyuans and their descendants are dispersed elsewhere in Japan and worldwide; mostly in Hawaii and, to a lesser extent, in other territories where there is also a sizable Japanese diaspora. In the majority of countries, the Ryukyuan and Japanese diaspora are not differentiated so there are no reliable statistics for the former.

Recent genetic and anthropological studies indicate that the Ryukyuans are significantly related to the Yamato people (mainland Japanese) but have also a relative closer relation to the Ainu people, compared with the Yamato people. This is possibly explained with partially shared ancestry of the population during the Jōmon period (pre 10,000 BCE – 1,000 BCE) and with the population of the Yayoi period (1,000 BCE – 300 CE), which were migrants from East Asia (specifically China and the Korean peninsula).The Ryukyuans have a specific culture with some matriarchal elements, native religion, and cuisine which had fairly late (12th century) introduction of rice. The population lived on the islands in isolation for many centuries, and in the 14th century from the three divided Okinawan political polities emerged the Ryukyu Kingdom (1429–1879) which continued the maritime trade and tributary relations started in 1372 with Ming dynasty China. In 1609 the kingdom was invaded by Satsuma Domain which allowed its independence being in vassal status because Tokugawa Japan was prohibited to trade with China, being in dual subordinate status between both China and Japan.During the Meiji period, the kingdom became Ryukyu Domain (1872–1879), after which it was politically annexed by the Empire of Japan. In 1879, after the annexation, the territory was reorganized as Okinawa Prefecture with the last king Shō Tai forcibly exiled to Tokyo. China renounced its claims to the islands in 1895. During this period, Okinawan ethnic identity, tradition, culture and language were suppressed by the Meiji government, which sought to assimilate the Ryukyuan people as Japanese (Yamato). After World War II, the Ryūkyū Islands were occupied by the United States between 1945 and 1950 and then 1950–1972. During this time, there were many violations of human rights. Since the end of World War II, there exists strong resentment against the Japanese government and US military facilities stationed in Okinawa, as seen in the Ryukyu independence movement.United Nations special rapporteur on discrimination and racism Doudou Diène, in his 2006 report, noted perceptible level of discrimination and xenophobia against the Ryukyuans, with the most serious discrimination they endure linked to their dislike of American military installations in the archipelago. An investigation into fundamental human rights was suggested.

Ryukyuan religion

The Ryukyuan religion (琉球信仰), Ryukyu Shintō (琉球神道), Nirai Kanai Shinkō (ニライカナイ信仰), or Utaki Shinkō (御嶽信仰) is the indigenous belief system of the Ryukyu Islands. While specific legends and traditions may vary slightly from place to place and island to island, the Ryukyuan religion is generally characterized by ancestor worship (more accurately termed "ancestor respect") and the respecting of relationships between the living, the dead, and the gods and spirits of the natural world. Some of its beliefs, such as those concerning genius loci spirits and many other beings classified between gods and humans, are indicative of its ancient animistic roots, as is its concern with mabui (まぶい), or life essence.

Over time, Ryukyuan religious practice has been influenced by Chinese religions (Xiantiandao, Taoism, Confucianism, and folk beliefs), Buddhism and Japanese Shinto. One of its most ancient features is the belief onarigami (おなり神), the spiritual superiority of women derived from Amamikyu, which allowed for the development of a noro (priestess) system and a significant following for yuta (female mediums or shamans).

Sefa-utaki

Sefa-utaki (斎場御嶽, Seefa-utaki), meaning "purified place of Utaki," is an historical sacred space, overlooking Kudaka Island, that served as one of the key locations of worship in the native religion of the Ryukyuan people for millennia. Later as a part of assimilation of Okinawa by Japan, it was shifted to serve as a Shinto Shrine. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu in Nanjō, Okinawa.

Sefa Utaki is on the Chinen Peninsula, and has been recognized as a sacred place since the earliest period of Ryukyuan history. According to Chūzan Seikan, this was the spot where Amamikyu, goddess of creation, made landfall on Okinawa. The shrine area itself comprises a number of caves and overhanging ledges opening to the east and south among towering rock formations of a high promontory over the sea. All buildings have been destroyed, but the outer and inner precincts can still be traced.

Tamagusuku Castle

Tamagusuku Castle (玉城城, Tamagusuku jō) is a Ryukyuan gusuku in Nanjō, Okinawa. It is the oldest castle on Okinawa; Chūzan Seikan says it was built by Amamikyu, the creation goddess of the Ryukyuan religion. It was the home of the Aji of Tamagusuku Magiri.

Uruma

Uruma (うるま市, Uruma-shi) is a city located in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. The modern city of Uruma was established on April 1, 2005, when the cities of Gushikawa and Ishikawa were merged with the towns of Katsuren and Yonashiro (both from Nakagami District). As of May 1, 2013, the city has an estimated population of 118,330 and a population density of 1,400 persons per km². The total area is 86.00 km². The city covers part of the east coast of the south of Okinawa Island, the Katsuren Peninsula, and the eight Yokatsu Islands. The Yokatsu Islands include numerous sites important to the Ryukyuan religion, and the city as a whole has numerous historical sites, including: Katsuren Castle, Agena Castle, and Iha Castle and the Iha Shell Mound. It is home to the largest venue for Okinawan bullfighting. The Mid-Sea Road, which crosses the ocean and connects the Yokatsu Islands to the main island of Okinawa, is now a symbol of Uruma.Uruma is noted for its role in hosting large-scale refugee camps and the initial organization of local government of Okinawa immediately after the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. As such the city is considered the home of the starting point of the restoration of civil life in Okinawa immediately after the end of World War II. United States maintains four military bases in Uruma, some of which span other municipalities in Okinawa: Kadena Ammunition Storage Area, Camp McTureous, Camp Courtney, and White Beach Naval Facility. The bases cover 12.97% of the total area of the city. Two controversies have surrounded American military bases in Uruma: the 1959 Okinawa F-100 crash which killed and injured numerous students and residents, and the transport of Agent Orange via the White Beach Naval Facility for testing in Okinawa in the early 1960s as part of the classified Project AGILE.

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