Traditional customs kept in the islands of Japan until now -Okinoshima –

July 30, 2015 Juju Kurihara Culture, History, Travel, Trip Tags: , , , , , , 0 Comments

You may think Japan keeps a lot of tradition and it´s true in a way. But in a daily life, Japanese people are losing many traditional customs. Even when I was a school student, many of my classmates were´t following them comparing to my house where my father was older and more traditional than other fathers.
However, there are some islands in Japan where strictly keep the traditional customs still now in the 21st centuries. One of them is Okinoshima (沖ノ島).
Okinoshima is an uninhabited island in the middle of Genkai Sea and in Okitsumiya (沖津宮), which is built in the middle of the island, Tagorihime no kami (田心姫神) is enshrined. Okitsumiya was one of the three shrines where Munakata goddesses (宗像三女神) are enshrined. Those three goddesses were the daughters of Amaterasu Omikami (天照大神) and Susano-ono Mikoto (須佐之男命) according to Kojiki (古事記). Each goddess is enshrined in Nakatsumiya (中津宮), Hetsumiya (辺津宮) and Okitsumiya. 
Only authorized men can enter Okinoshima and a shrine priest serves who comes every 10 days in turn from Hetsumiya serves alone in this island. Staying alone in this super spiritual island seems quite scary to me though.  
It is believed that not only the shrine but entire island is the object of worship and therefore, Okinoshima is called “the island where inhabits the God”. This was the place where people heard the voice of the God when the Yamato chotei (大和朝廷/ Yamato Court) came to offer the national treasures in return of the protection of the country. Since then, over 1,600 years the island keeps the strict rule, “Once it´s offered to the God, it never be touched by humans”.
Anyone who landed this island MUST follow the rules without exceptions. 
– You must not tell anyone what you saw and heard in the island.
– You must not take anything out of the island even a grass or a stone.
– As soon as you landed the island, you must purify your body in the sea. You must be completely naked and enter the water up to your neck.
– Because of the tradition, no women are allowed to land the island.
Even men, they are only allowed to come to the island once a year when the Russo-Japanese War memorial service is held (27th May). 200 men are selected for the service.   
In terms of women, there are several theories. Some say that since it´s goddess enshrined in Okinoshima, she would be jealous. Or some say that the journey is too hard for women to come to the island. 
Okinoshima has really a strong connection with the God. As it´s located in the middle of Genkai Sea, which is also in between Korean Peninsula and Kyushu, important international ceremonies were often held in the island from the late 4th centuries to the end of the 9th centuries.   
The island has been uncivilized place for a long time and this is because people respected the taboos and protected the island. Since 1954, there are three times of research purpose excavations have been done and approximately 100,000 treasures were discovered. About 80,000 items have been specified as National Treasures. Because of this discovery, Okinoshima is called “Shosoin of the sea”.
Now Okinoshima and the related heritage are listed as a candidate for the World Cultural Heritage hearing in 2017. 
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