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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Okinawa and Amami
Munchū
A type of patrilinear group found on the main island of Okinawa, based on the recognition of a common ancestor. In the latter half of the seventeenth century, the Ryūkyū kingdom determined to strengthen the status system of the gentry class, and to this effect created in 1689 a state-sponsored bureau, the keizuza, to compile and revise genealogical tables of gentry families. The munchū developed during this process. Current munchū practices are very complex. Apart from the munchū formed by the gentry, there also exist munchū formed by farmers, who imitated and incorporated this form of societal organization into their culture. Additionally, there exist local differences as well. However, ongoing close field observation and an analysis of genealogies by scholars are gradually revealing more about them. Currently, common munchū practice has it that the genealogical record is kept by the main house (sōke) and that all branches of a munchū share a common tomb. Periodic festivals for the ancestral spirits are held at these tombs, and pilgrimages to sacred places associated with the founding patriarch as well as so-called "well-pilgrimages" (kaamaai) to sacred wells are carried out together. The female ritualists who lead these observances, called ukudii (priestess associated with a particular munchū), generally are from the main house; they perform prayers at sacred places associated with the munchū and, on request, at households belonging to the munchū.

—Saitō Michiko
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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