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Kikoe-ogimi

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  • Other Names: 聞得大君加那志 (O: chifijin ganashi)
  • Japanese/Okinawan: 聞得大君 (kikoe oogimi / chifijin)

Kikoe-ôgimi was a title held by the top high priestess in the Ryûkyû Kingdom. The position was created in 1478 by King Shô Shin, who reorganized much of the royal court, aristocratic, and spiritual/religious official hierarchies at that time. From that time until the abolition of the kingdom in 1879, fifteen women held the position, beginning with Shô Shin's younger sister Gessei.

Typically a sister or other female relation to the king, the kikoe-ôgimi oversaw and managed an extensive hierarchy of priestesses and shamanesses, including the noro and yuta of the traditional Ryukyuan religion. It was believed that women had greater spiritual power, and that men, being spiritually weak and vulnerable, required women to protect them; to that end, the kikoe-ôgimi, seen as a sister spirit or sister goddess (姉妹神、おなり神), performed or led various rituals for the protection and prosperity of king and kingdom, for good harvests, and safe voyages. Together with the king she appointed noro to the various regions of the kingdom,[1] and oversaw their activities through a hierarchy of priestesses; directly beneath the kikoe-ôgimi in this hierarchy were three priestesses known as the Oamushirare, who each oversaw one-third of the kingdom's noro and utaki (sacred spaces).[2]

A new kikoe-ôgimi was inducted into the position through, in part, a ritual called Oaraori (御新下り, O: uaara uri), performed at Sefa utaki, one of the most sacred places on Okinawa Island; the ritual involved a worship of Kudaka Island.

The kikoe-ôgimi was provided with her own mansion, in the aristocratic town of Shuri below the castle. Containing both residence and shrine, the mansion, known simply as kikoe-ôgimi udun, was relocated a number of times over the course of the kingdom era. Its final location, in the Tera-chô neighborhood of Shuri, covered roughly 3,000 tsubo (9.9 km2). Following the fall of the kingdom, the shrine was relocated to the Crown Prince's residence of Nakagusuku udun, and the remaining residential buildings stood for a time until they were removed to create private agricultural fields. This land was bought by the Okinawa Normal School in 1929 and used for agricultural and educational purposes until the end of World War II, after which Shuri Middle School was built on the site.

List of Kikoe-ôgimi

  1. Utuchitunumuigani (aka Tsukiyora/Gessei, younger sister of Shô Shin)
  2. Bainan (daughter of King Shô Ikô)
  3. Great-grandmother of King Shô Tai (name?)(d. 1869).

References

  • Plaque on-site at former site of Kikoe-ôgimi udun, just outside Shuri Middle School, at 2-55 Tera-chô, Shuri, Naha.[2]
  1. George Kerr, Okinawa: the History of an Island People, Revised ed., Tuttle Publishing (2000), 111.
  2. Plaque at former site of Jiibu dunchi, the residence of one of the Oamushirare.[1]
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