It might come to you as a surprise, but there is a spot in Okinawa where it is said that the Goddess of the Sun in Japanese mythology, Amaterasu-Ōmikami (天照大御神), once briefly stopped by before she headed off for Ise (伊勢). And that holy spot happens to be at the side of Naha‘s city center!
Okinogū Shrine (沖宮), located in Oonoyama Park (奥武山公園), was where Amaterasu-Ōmikami decided to descend before she crossed the ocean to Japan’s mainland. The shrine is thus another place in Okinawa that isn’t related to the Okinawan-derived religion, Utaki worship (御嶽).
Apparently, Mt. Tentō (天燈山), where Okinogū is located, is known as the oldest sacred place in Okinawa. This formed a part of the reason that Okinogū was one of the Ryūkyū Hassha (琉球八社) and received special treatment from the Ryūkyū’s imperial court.
Ryūkyū Hassha were eight Shinto shrines that were deemed of great spiritual importance in the Ryūkyū Dynasty. The kings and high-ranked officials performed rituals at these shrines for the kingdom’s prosperity.
Okinogū Shrine and Karate
You will notice a monument on one side of Okinogū’s white torii gate. It is to commemorate Funakoshi Gichin (船越義珍), who is known as the “father of modern karate”.
It might be weird because the concept of a shrine and karate usually go separately. But, as Oonoyama Park has a connection with Gichin, the stone monument was placed here, hoping that the martial art could be spread from Okinawa to the world. In fact, there are foreign karate masters who moved to Okinawa just for karate!
Tip: Book a Karate History Tour if you want to be guided when you visit Okinogū.
Okinogū’s Haiden Hall (拝殿)
The same as many Okinawan temples and shrines, Okinogū’s worship hall’s roof is covered by beautiful red roof tiles. When events are on, a stage is usually set up above the staircases in front of the worship hall.
After you make prayers at the Heiden Hall, you can head to Mt. Tentō by following the promenade on the left of Haiden.
Mt. Tentō’s Summit
Mt. Tentō’s summit is the most sacred and solemn part of the precinct, known as Kuganimui (黄金森). It is where Okinogū’s main god, Tenjyukume Ryūgū Onkami (天受久女龍宮王御神), is enshrined.
Putting its religious importance aside, the panoramic view here is just spectacular!
The Other Shrines in Okinogū’s Precinct
At the back of the Haiden Hall, you will encounter a couple of smaller shrines, such as Sumiyoshi Shrine (住吉神社) and Benzaiten-gū’s (弁財天宮). Okinogū’s café, Oki no Chaya (沖の茶屋), is also close by.
Unlike the shrines in most parts of Japan, this part of Okinogū will give a different impression of what a shrine’s ground can look like. Replacing the usual cherry blossoms or hydrangeas, the charms of Okinawa’s shrines are from the tropical flowers, as well as birds and insects chirping!
Okinogū’s Opening Hours and Access Information
- Okinogū’s precinct can be accessed 24/7. The shrine office is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
- It is less than a 5-minute walk from Yui Rail’s Onoyama Park Station (奥武山公園駅).
Discover Other Attractions in Naha
Okinawa’s capital, Naha, is a city filled with a wide range of attractions for you to discover! But which attractions are worth your time?
If that is the question on your mind, our Naha City article has got you covered! Whether it is shopping on the famous Kokusai-dōri Street or visiting a shrine located atop a cliff next to a local beach, you will find all the information you need in the article (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.