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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Okinawa and Amami
Ryūkyū Shintō
The term Ryūkyū Shintō not only refers to the Shrine Shintō transmitted (kanjō) from the mainland since the medieval period, but also to traditional Ryūkyū beliefs that are considered primitive forms of Shintō. The oldest work describing Ryūkyū Shintō is the Ryūkyū Shintōki (1608). Its author, the Buddhist priest Taichū (1552-1639), went to the Ryūkyū archipelago in 1603 and produced the book after a three-year stay. The fifth volume deals with Ryūkyū Shintō in the broadest sense, giving founding-legends of the kingdom's shrines, details of mythology and traditional beliefs native to the Ryūkyūs, and information about the protector deity Kinmamon (a serpent deity). Ryōbu Shintō has exerted a major influence on Shrine Shintō in the Ryūkyūs, and the main shrines and their associated temples — commonly referred to as the Eight Shrines — of the Ryūkyūs were established during roughly the same period. These eight shrines and their temples were: Naminouegū and Gokokuji, Okigū and Rinkaiji, Shikinagū and Jin'ōji, Futenmagū and Jingūji, Sueyoshigū and Henshōji, Asato Hachimangū and Jintokuji, Amekugū and Seigenji, and Kingū and Kin-Kannonji. Of these, the seven excluding Kingū were formerly supported, and their priests appointed, by the court. There were also other shrine-temple complexes outside this grouping, such as Chōjugū (now Ukishima Jinja), that possessed a more ancient and venerable history. Judging from the fact that the eight shrines belonged to the Shingon school of Buddhism, while these other shrines had different sectarian affiliations, it is likely that the groupings are due to sectarian discord.
       Of the Eight Shrines, Hachimangū enshrined Emperor Ōjin, Tamayorihime, and the Empress Jingū, treating them as being identical with Hachiman Daibosatsu. The other shrines, however, had Kumano Gongen in its specific manifestations as Izanami, Hayatama-no-o and Kotosaka-no-o as their objects of worship (saishin). The Kumano transmission may have come through communications between the Japanese mainland and the Ryūkyūs along the Kuroshio ocean current. In all events, Ryūkyū Shintō, which depended on the patronage of the court and which did not have shrine parishioners' (ujiko) networks among the common people, lost its protection with the collapse of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. Though Naminouegū was ranked kanpei shōsha in 1890, and so received economic support from the Meiji government, the other shrines fell into ruin and remain so to this day. New shrines established after the Meiji period include a prefectural shrine, Okinawa Jinja, built in 1916 within the old royal palace and the district shrine Yomochi Jinja built in 1937. The former enshrines Minamoto no Yoritomo, Shuntennō and Shōtai, the royal ancestor and last of the Ryūkyū kings, while the latter enshrines Gima Shinjō, who introduced sugar cane to Okinawa and began the production of unrefined sugar there, as well as the politician Saion who worked for the prosperity of Okinawan agriculture.
See also Ryūkyū Shintōki

— Saitō Michiko
The shrine of Okigū

Okinawa Prefecture, 2004

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