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Nerpai: Charm against Tsunami

Nerpai: Charm against Tsunami

In the traditional Ryukyuan ritual known as “Nerpai” held on the afternoon on April 12, women pray for a good harvest and set up bamboo sticks at designated areas in Gusukube, Miyakojima City as charms to keep tsunami away.

April 15, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

“Nerpai,” a traditional Ryukyuan ritual in which people pray for a good harvest and set up charms against tsunami, was carried out in Miyakojima City on April 12.

The citizens of two villages, Sunagawa and Tomori, took part in the ritual. Local women prayed for calm in society and set up bamboo sticks known as “datifu” or “danchiku” at designated spots as charms to keep tsunami away.

In the morning, the local people gathered at Wipyayama, where women sang a Ryukyuan divine song called “Niri” and prayed in the sacred room at Mywipya in Sunagawa. The women then walked in a line and set up “datifu” sticks at designated spots, praying that their homes will be safe from tsunami. After the women left, the men remained at Wipyayama to conduct the ritual in which they sang a sacred song and performed the motions of rowing a boat.

People carry out the “Nerpai” ritual every year on the first day of the Rooster in the third month of the old lunar calendar. In recent times, most of the participants are residents of the two villages of Sunagawa and Tomori, but in the past people from other villages such as Gusukubebora, Uenoarazato and Miyaguni were also involved.

Although the origin of the “Nerpai” ritual is unclear, it is said that an old document dating back to 1748 includes a description of a ritual very similar to it.

A participant in the ritual, Akemichi Uezato, said, “Fewer and fewer people are taking part and not that many even know of its existence. While it may seem that we are only making a wish to a god, I do think that it is important for us to remind ourselves of disaster prevention once a year.”

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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