An Interesting Okinawan Culture:Picnic at a Family Tomb

We all have different cultures in different places, and each is unique.

Especially Japan is although a small country, countless cultures have been being passed on within the each roots.

Okinawa is no exception.
In fact, the tiny tropical island chain, that is one of the 47 prefectures in Japan today, was an independent kingdom called ‘Ryukyu’ between 1429-1879.

Okinawan people still keeps many cultures, and traditions that are outlandish from other prefectures of Japan.

Shiimii (清明), the grave-sweeping festival is one of them.

Shiimii(清明) festival is a family festival which is held during the two-week period roughly after 5th April in the Western calendar, which is the day the 5th solar term in the lunisolar calendar begins. 

On the day, the whole family sweeps and washes their ancestral tomb, provides offerings to the dead, and afterwards, they enjoy the food at their tomb.

If you have visited the islands, you might have noticed it, but those turtleback tombs are huge in Okinawa. The turtleback design is thought to represent a mother’s womb.

They prepare and bring their offerings like sushi, fish cakes, fruits, alcohol spirits, etc.

In Okinawan culture, women take the lead in speaking to ancestral spirits.

The offerings are not just food and drink, but money as well.

It’s another unique tradition in Okinawa that is called Uchikabi, yellow-colored papers which are considered as money in heaven. It’s burned to be sent to the ancestors to not struggle financially in heaven.

Once the ancestors are fulfilled with the spotless, clean tomb, excellent food, and funds, the picnic begins.

Shiimii is a very important event where family members that live apart after having their own family gather, and work together, eat, and laugh in front of their ancestors.