Communicating with the Gods
People in Taketomi Island communicate with all kinds of things in their daily lives, especially with their ancestors and gods in Utaki.
What they do first thing in the morning is what is called "shahtto," they present a cup of tea on a Buddhist altar where their ancestors are deified in the second room. The meaning and the origin of "shahtto" are unclear, but it is believed to have come from "chatohto" (tea for respectful ones). They present a cup of tea and pray for a peaceful day for their family to spend. Also, ones that have "konjin" (an incense burner) in the first room, they pray for their health and safety of the day.
In Taketomi Island, tokonoma (an alcove) is leading them to gods and Buddhist altar is leading them to their ancestors, so that they clap their hands twice to the gods of tokonoma, while they just put their hands together and pray to their ancestors of Buddhist altar.
Though their daily lives start in such ways, on an occasion like "toshi-otoko" and "toshi-onna" (a man/woman who was born in a year with the same sign of the Chinese zodiac as the current year) celebrations, they pray to god and ancestors as well. Especially at the 85th toshi-otoko celebration, beiju (age of 88), and mandarah (age of 97) celebrations, they set up a special altar in tokonoma, offer sake, rice, salt mound, and whole a lot of feast there and pray.
Normally, such communication with those gods and ancestors are taken place in their daily lives and on special occasions, but they sometimes communicate with them in a sudden emergency or an unexpected disaster.
The prayer for God Gahri of Pui The offering at Tanedori festival
Once male junior high school students decided to go to Nakasuji Utaki alone in midnight to measure their braveness.
The rule of this braveness test was like the following; the first student put his school cap on the incense burner set in deep place of Nakasuji Utaki, then the second student go and find the cap and bring it back to them after the first one comes back.
However the complete darkness of Utaki scared the first student so much that he threw his cap into the dark instead of putting it on the right position. Therefore, it was impossible for the next student to find the cap where it was supposed to be. He looked for it desperately walking around inside the Utaki, and finally could find it and brought it to the hill of Nhbufulu where they promised to meet.
To his surprise, there was a priest of Nakasuji Utaki there waiting for them. He said to the student, "God of Nakasuji told me in my dream that there was someone bothering the Utaki so I came here to check out what's going wrong." Next day, the principal punished all these junior high school students, but what is really important was that the priest went there not just in coincidence, but he actually received the message from god. Moreover, people on the island thought it was quite natural to receive messages from gods.
Because priests in Taketomi Island always communicate with gods, people never doubt about "messages from gods" at all.
In some cases, even ordinary people can communicate with god as well...
One ship sailed in the ocean from Ishigaki Island to Taketomi Island just before the typhoon so that the sea was unbelievably rough. Under such a circumstance, the engine of the ship suddenly stopped due to some kind of an engine trouble. When the engine stopped, the ship was shaken furiously like a fallen leaf in a river, and it seemed to be wrecked in any minute. All the passengers on board were in a peak of panic, so some children started crying. It was then one woman started singing a song called "Sea's Calm and Journey in Peace" which was a song to wish the safe journey. Passengers around her also started singing. The bigger their singing voice had become, the smaller the nervousness of them became. Meanwhile, the engine started working. In a big cheering, one person said, "Gods of Utaki must have heard our prayers!" then all of them nodded to each other in agreement.
Inhabitants have communicated with gods of Utaki in such ways, and this strong faith directly connected to their will to preserve Utaki. In Utaki, there are a number of trees. People protect these trees because they believe that cutting them would bring them bad luck.
Everyone brooms Nabinh Path and other paths for gods to go through. Yuhkui of Tanadhui Festival visits every house.
Each house welcomes the god escorted by a priest. Therefore, all the families prepare their house as comfortable for gods to stay as possible.
Such thoughts exist not just inside the community. Crops, marine products, field products to offer to godsare also precious things. That is why people in the island try to preserve all the surroundings such as houses, paths, fields, and sea, and wish to pass this spirit down from generation to generation.
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