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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Okinawa and Amami
A sacred area in Okinawan villages like the shrines of village protector kami on the mainland, where deities descend and people communicate with them through rites and festivals. Such sites have different names in different areas, such as mui (grove), uganju (prayer place) and ogami (prayer ritual), but in general utaki is a wooded area where village supplications and rites take place. The nucleus of the utaki is called ibi. This is a natural object considered sacred, in most cases a rock or a tree. Supplications are made at the ibi, in front of which is placed a stone like a rectangular incense burner, on which incense is offered. Ancestral deities are thought to dwell permanently at the vutaki, while other deities cross over for particular rites. These latter are called raihōshin and are considered to visit from Nirai-kanai. From the fact that human bones have been found in utaki, some think that they were originally the burial ground of the founders of the village. From the mid-1930s there was a movement to reorganize utaki on the basis of the Japanese shrine system, but this had not taken place by the end of the war. The occasional utaki with mainland elements such as torii (shrine gates) in front and haiden (worship halls) in the miya style are vestiges of this movement.

— Saitō Michiko
Utaki ritual site

Okinawa Prefecture, 2002

©Fujii Hiroaki

Utaki ritual site

Okinawa Prefecture, 2004

©Ōsawa Kōji

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