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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Okinawa and Amami
Nirai-kanai
The Other Realm across the sea (or, on the seabed) where the deities dwell, and from where they bring both good fortune and catastrophe to the human world. A belief held in the area stretching from Amami to Okinawa. In many cases it is considered to exist in the east, but there are regional differences based on location as well as variations in nomenclature (such as niruya-kanaya).The ni of nirai means "root", meaning the source of all things in this world. Tradition says that fire and rice originated there, as well as rats and insects that can harm the crops. Thus there exist festivals to return what is harmful to nirai. On the basis of this view of the Other Realm (takaikan), during festivals the deities are invited to visit from the Other Realm. Examples include the Izaihō and other rituals on Kudaka Island, the Unjami festival of northern Okinawa, and the Akamata-Kuromata and Mayunganasu festivals of the Yaeyama islands. Nirai-kanai is also the place where the spirits of the dead go. For instance, the spirits of female lay ritualists (Jp. kamionna, Okinawan nanchu) on Kudaka Island are said to go there after death.

—Hatakeyama Atsushi
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
4-10-28 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-8440, Japan
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