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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan. Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan.
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare. An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare.
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife. Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife.
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan. Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan.
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara. The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara.
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower. Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower.
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving. Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving.
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky. The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky.
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

History

Seifa Utaki 斎場御嶽

The birthplace of Okinawa's spiritual past

Only an hour's drive from Naha , the Chinen Peninsula feels like a different world. Find yourself at the dawn of Okinawan history at Seifa Utaki, where small shrines mingle in harmony with the rocks and trees. There is plenty to see on and around the peninsula, including Okinawa's oldest castles, densely forested hillsides and the island of Kudaka. Plan your day trip in the area around the ferry times.

The triangular rock formation known as Sangui.

Don't Miss

  • Sangui-the archway of the goddess Amamikyu
  • The ruins of Okinawa's two oldest castles, Tamagusuku and Chinen
  • Kudaka Island-where kings went to pray

How to Get There

Take the 38 bus on the Shikiya Line headed for Shikiya from Kamiizumi, a one-minute walk from Naha Bus Terminal. Get off at Seifa Utaki Iriguchi. There are 53 stops and it takes about one hour.

By car, take Route 329 out of Naha heading east and connect to route 331. Seifa Utaki is just off Route 331 on the Chinen Peninsula. If you avoid the heavy traffic, it takes about 45 minutes.

A goddess descends

Seifa Utaki has been a sacred place to Okinawans throughout the ages. As you walk beneath the triangular rock formation known as Sangui, you are literally walking in the mythical footsteps of the gods.

According to the first written history of Okinawa , this is where the goddess Amamikyu came down to Earth to give birth, going on to populate the islands with her descendants. After the islands became part of Japan, the legends mingled with Shinto, the indigenous Japanese religion, but Seifa Utaki continued to be revered as a holy place.

Shrines among the rocks at Seifa Utaki

Look out for two clay pots beneath two great stalactites near the Sangui formation. They collect water that was used in the holy rituals. There are many more prayer spots to discover along the trail, and small shrines nestled among the rocks and trees.

Rising from the ashes

The second oldest castle in Okinawa , Chinen Castle, is just a short walk from Seifa Utaki. Built more than 700 years ago, the castle is now in ruins, but a rebuilding program has been slowly bringing it back to life.

It's easy to see why the site was selected for the castle all those centuries ago. It commands a fine view of the Pacific Ocean, and of Kudaka Island about 3 kilometers out to sea.

Okinawa's oldest castle, Tamagusuku Castle, is just a 15-minute drive south on Route 331. These ruins are unrestored, which means you have to conjure up the picture of its past grandeur yourself, but there is plenty to fire your imagination.

Island fit for a goddess

According to legend, Amamikyu created the island of Kudaka after descending to the human realm. The kings of Okinawa had to visit the island to pray to the spirits of their ancestors. Now you can retrace their pilgrimage by high-speed ferry from Chinen. Visit the Chinen Marine Leisure Center and you can take tours of the coral waters as well as a ferry to Kudaka Island.

There is a festival called Izaiho in which all of the women on the island between the ages of 30 to 69 take part as shrine maidens. However, while most traditional festivals are annual, this one only takes place in the Year of the Horse, which is once every 12 years. The most recent festival was held in 2014, so the next one won't be until 2026.

Sample the specialty dish of the island, irabu, or sea snake soup, while you are there. It is said to be highly nutritious and invigorating.