CONTRIBUTED BY MELISSA MCDANIEL
You’re probably aware that Okinawa is the home of nine sites designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and you’ve probably visited the biggies–Shuri-jo, Zakimi-jo, maybe Shikana-en Gardens. But what about that one on the map–the cave-like picture with the cryptic name? In our quest to see all of the nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites on Okinawa, my family recently visited Sefa Utaki on the Chinen Peninsula. While most of the sites on the list are gusuku (castle) ruins, Seifa Utaki is a fascinating glimpse into indigenous Okinawan religious practices. The site was considered extremely holy and was used as a place of worship by the Ryukyan Kingdom. This sacred destination consists of a number of caves and towering rock formations sheltering altars which are still visited by locals.
Today, Seifa Utaki is a lovely stop, easily added on to a day trip to Okinawa World. The shady paths offer a break from the Okinawan sun, and the peaceful atmosphere evokes the Ryukyu of the past. After a rather treacherous climb up a steep, stony path, the self-guided tour takes you on a walk through the woods to various altars. Along the way you’ll enjoy spectacular views out over the Pacific Ocean to nearby Kudaka Island. A highlight is the “Triangular-Shaped Opening,” a passage between two huge rocks that leads to a serene niche holding two more altars. Near the Triangle are clay pots positioned under two huge stalactites. The water from these used to be considered holy and was used in fortune-telling and royal rituals.
Directions: Seifa Utaki is just off the 331 on the Chinen Peninsula, about 15 minutes from Okinawa World. It is well sign-posted just after the Chinen Village Office. There is ample parking, a small visitor center with restrooms, and an English-language brochure.
Admission: Y100 for children and Y200 for adults. We did not have small children with us, but I would not recommend bringing a stroller on the paths.
The most sacred site of the Ryukyu Kingdom, “sefa-utaki”, is serene and lovely. The Nanjo City area in Okinawa is a very picturesque village and worth a visit, even if you don’t go to sefa-utaki. The prices are still Y100 for kids and Y200 for adults. You park and buy tickets at a welcome center/museum/cafe area that has parking, located on Route 331. Once you have your tickets, you walk up a road that is located next to the post office across the street from the welcome center and that takes you to the entrance to the site. There is a 3 minute video with English subtitles that you will watch at the entrance building. Strollers or wheelchairs would be IMPOSSIBLE. Don’t even think about it. The path is uneven flagstones and the angle is steep. Like 45 degrees steep in some places. There is also a set of stairs. Basically, you’re climbing up the side of the mountain, through the forest, and into a sacred crevasse. I would also recommend not bringing any young children due to the solemn nature of this place. People are praying and everything is very quiet, serene, and respectful. Young kids would be bored and loud. If you are trying to see all of Okinawa’s World Heritage sites, be sure to see this one!
Been here too. Yes,you can bring a stroller but I wouldn’t recommend it. If you have a little one bring or borrow one of those backpack thingy.
The path is definitely not “steep and treacherous” like the previous poster stated. I went yesterday and was expecting steps hewn out of the side of the mountain. You could defintley take a stroller with you as well, granted there was a slight incline at one point, but anybody with a bit of leg strength could push a stroller up it. I don’t know what these people are used to, but the path was well made and there are no steps after the intial 5 or so.
The author is correct in saying the path is steep and treacherous, I would suggest having as little in hand as possible. The views are gorgeous. The view through the greenery, once you walk between the triangle rocks, frames the ocean perfectly. Lots of spider webs with their hosts, off the path, in the trees; both fascinating and frightening. We had our 4 year old and she needed some assistance acceding and descending. Proper footwear may make this less daunting.