- 4 min read

A Folk Story by Okukubi River

Located in Okinawa's Kin Town

Okukubi River is lined with narrow paths that lead to a mangrove forest and, eventually, the ocean. Along the west bank, signs are posted, telling a legend in Japanese. Photos of these brand new signs were taken before they became weather-beaten and unreadable, and their interesting stories translated to share with Western audiences.

Early, in the 16th Century a monk was traveling by sea, from Japan to China when his ship was wrecked. 

The wreckage of the wooden vessel was adrift in Kin Bay, on the east coast of Okinawa. A native of the village, rescued the priest, who barely survived the accident. The rescuer fed the monk some of his own lunch and, the survivor quickly recovered. Facing towards the sea, the holy man shouted, "Hokorashayaminna!" "Everyone be happy. Be healthy. Be proud," would be a good translation. The monk asked the young man for something to quench his thirst and, he was brought to a freshwater spring. Taking a sip of the water, he remarked, how tasty and refreshing it was. Using the spring water, the monk, taught the youngster, how to make some excellent green tea.

The mountain water spring was named Saga (茶川 = green tea river) a source for making the delicious beverage of tea. Noblemen and Ryukyu officials, traveled the miles from Shuri Castle, to draw water from this precious source.

The monk was fed and sheltered by the inhabitants of Kin Village and, he wished show them his gratitude.

An expert in agriculture, he taught them the most advanced techniques, for raising crops. Using farming methods, according to his guidance, the yield of the annual harvest, increased significantly. Local villagers exclaimed, "White sand, turned into rice!" And, they considered the monk, to be a "Kaminchu" -- A man who communicates with the heavenly spirits. Suddenly, things went wrong.....

On the night of a full moon, a handsome young man appeared. He was a stranger, to the village.

He conned a young girl into following him and, she did so, as she were under his spell. A neighbor, who fancied the young lady, followed them. He walked softly and slowly, using shadows of the night, to avoid detection. The girl and stranger, walked hand in hand, far from her residence. A very jealous lad, wished he could intervene and, chase the outsider away. As he watched, from behind some bushes, there was a puff of smoke and, the strange boy, turned into a large snake. Wrapping itself around the girl, they dropped out of site, into the depths of a cavern.

The legendary serpent lived in a cave, coming out only, to capture young women and, eat their livers.

The spring, near the river was, where women would draw fresh water for their homes. From the nearby cave, the snake would go out to attack them. Before long, no one would dare, going near the cave, river or, the spring, for fear of becoming a victim. The lack of visitors, nearby became an inconvenience. The snake, would have to do some traveling in order to acquire fresh meals. Once again, it began transforming into the charming young stranger. And, would visit homes, seeking prey, under the cover of darkness.

The monk, noticed the village had become silent and, villagers were fearful of going outdoors.

He learned of the crafty snake's disguise and its kidnapping of young women. When told of the location the serpent had been using as a dwelling, the monk went there, immediately. He performed a Buddhist chant, to seal the snake within the cave, for eternity. The village has prospered since that moment and, the snake has never been seen again. Translations by Mami Sakiyama

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