Here amid the many islands of Okinawa there is a very special island, Yabuchi Island. According to lore, Yabuchi has been the dwelling place of a nameless goddess who fell from the heavens and found refuge - before humans began living there. Dwelling with her was her faithful dog. She remains in the cave she calls home to this day.
My trip to Yabuchi island began one mid-morning with the sun already high in the skies. Few clouds troubled me and my fellow adventurer and guide despite a typhoon only a day away. The seas were also surprisingly calm - in short a perfect day.
We first crossed over to the island over a rather impressive bridge with dragon figureheads on each end. The road continued, now much pitted, though the jungle did not at first press close against the vehicle. Continuing some distance the jungle pressed ever closer in - intent perhaps to reclaim the whole of the island to it's solitude? No houses can be built there. Once a village was built there, but the goddess is one who likes her privacy, though she enjoys visitors. The village burned down and the people respectfully from then on only maintain fields locked within the habu infested jungle. The jungle seems to press closer as these thoughts go through my head and it seems as if the jungle itself will stop the car's advance, and then the road opened up into a wide clearing with a trail and sign ahead.
Parking the car, my friend and I donned our gear and approached the trail advancing past the sign. The sign incidentally informed us that these were cave ruins where very old shell arrowheads and pottery some 6,500 years old were found!
Past the sign the small footpath led on to the far beach of the island, but left, the giant mouth of the cave stood at the end of the clearing. The beauty of this cave quite took my breath away. Some of the most impressive formations I've ever seen. Just outside the cave several shrines stood, it seemed to have been a while since the last offerings, but my guide informs me that the Okinawans do frequently visit and pay their respects.
We move further inside, climbing up clay slick 'stairs' we enter the upper cave chambers. My guide takes a fright after informing me that long legged insects can be found within - I point one out to him nearby. It's a poisonous carnivorous insect that frequents caves here. They are aggressive, but they made not moves against us. Passing safely, we soon see the inner shrine ahead. It's a true altar, a black box carved from the rock of the cave, with a bowl filled with white ash and spent incense, two distinct candle holders minus candles, beautiful brass flowers on either side, and in the center an image of the goddess. She's roughly drawn, but the spirit herself is quite beautiful and welcoming. I was a bit surprised how welcome I was made to feel. Offering some incense the smoke disturbed a bat, but as I drifted into a trance and communion with this goddess I didn't much mind the flittering of unseen wings around me. Can peace be peace, but great and joyful all at the same time? That's what the presence of this goddess felt like. After she graciously extending an invitation to any others I might bring, I thanked her and withdrew from the trance.
My friend was freaking out because while I was in a trance a flame was burning visibly in my chest and smoke was curling out from my head. This reminds me of the time a spirit cat walks through me and then stares at me during a private celebration of the spirits on one of the traditional dates July 15th. Everyone saw the cat which was very cool. The spirits are definitely warming to me and becoming intrigued. Phenomenon centered around myself strokes the ego a bit, but I'm content to let things be and reveal themselves in their right time.
After exploring the rest of the cave beyond, we saw a few more bats and some lovely cave formations, and then returned uneventfully. This is definitely a place I want to return to.
Well folks, sorry it's been so long since my last updates, but I haven't been idle as you can tell. I hope you enjoyed the poor relation of my adventure. I hope part of the awe I felt during the whole thing came through a little. Visiting the home of a goddess? I never dreamed I could do so, and yet here in Okinawa, the gods and spirits still linger close to their people.