Ryukyuan mythology - origin of the Ryukyu Isands
Oct 5, 2019a

Kudaka jima as I saw it from Seifa Utaki in May, 2019

One of the first things that I learned about Kudaka Island is that a visitor is forbidden to pick up a shell, a stone, or a handful of sand with the intention of keeping it as a souvenir. It is believed that everything - even every grain of sand - on the island was placed there by the gods and are not for any reason to be removed.

Izaiho is a ceremony for women who are between the ages of 30 and 41, born and raised in Kudaka Island, and who are married to men from the island. It initiates them as kaminchu. The ceremony was held on the island for four days from November 15 of the year of the horse in the lunar calendar.

In Ryukyuan religion, a kaminchu is a person with spiritual power (seji), the ability to sense, communicate with, and direct the power of kami (a god). They also have obligations to kami. According to W.P. Lebra, a person is appointed kaminchu once it is clear that the person has spirit of high value. Additionally, these people typically come from families of already established kaminchu and are usually the first son or first daughter of that family. Although both men and women can have spiritual power, most kaminchu are women, in accordance with the onarigami emphasis on women’s spiritual superiority. Kaminchu can be further broken down into other religious specialist subgroups, specifically noro and yuta .

Many folks make their pilgrimage to Seifa Utaki, a place where noro gather to pray and a place from which one can see Kudaka jima. I finally made it to Seifa Utaki in May, 2019!

At 21:30 in the video is shown another gun emplacement.
You can read my Kudaka Island discussion here.

Only female attendants can conduct the ritual, and after being ordained to serve the island gods, they serve to pray for the islanders’ health and prosperity until they are 70 years old.

The last Izaiho ceremony was performed in 1978, The 1990 and 2002 rituals were cancelled due not having a Noro to perform it. The Association of Lesser Gods lamented the fact that many young women move away from the island to Okinawa’s main island and elsewhere.

Izaiho is performed only on Kudaka Island, and traditions that dictate requirements for a woman who is eligible to become a Noro and join the Association of Lesser Gods are very strict. The woman has to be between 30 and 41 years of age, must have grown up on the island, and also be married to a native Kudaka islander.

In 2014, Kudaka Ward Chief Fumiyoshi Uchima said that the situation is very sad, because the 2014 ceremony cancellation could mean that there may no longer be a chance to select a Noro who would inherit the title and knowledge directly from the elder retiring Noro. “This could mean the end of this tradition,” he said.

personal experiences and conversations
Japan Update, August 20, 2014
Ryukyu Shimpo, December 16, 2014
Smithsonian Institution / Nat'l Postal Museum
Izaiho ceremony - Part 1

Izaiho ceremony - Part 2

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