NANJO, OKINAWA PREF. – The glow from the ritual fires greet the entourage of noro (priestesses) entering the grounds of Sefa Utaki. As they proceed, the robe-clad women chant the ceremonial song of kuena to commemorate the inauguration of the kikoe-ōgimi — the highest ranking priestess and central religious figure of the Ryukyu Kingdom (1429-1879).
White sand delivered from Kudaka Island, the first of the Ryukyu Islands said to be created by the goddess Amamikiyo when she descended from heaven, is spread over the premises. The group moves on to make offerings at Sefa Utaki’s six ibi (sanctuaries) before the event reaches its climax past midnight and the kikoe-ōgimi is elevated to the rank of deity.