Japanese Language Blog

Ryukyan Festivals Posted by on Jan 25, 2011 in Culture

January is a busy month of rituals for the Ryukyan people of Okinawa.

For example, the festival of sougwachi is a New Year’s festival where the head of the household visits his elderly father and mother and his in-laws. The elderly also present some salty and dried squid to the head of household. The head of the household then eats the squid to show he is grateful for the hospitality. The main drink in this occasion is awamori. Awamori is a distilled alcohol made from rice. It’s thought that drinking a cup of awamori will bring good luck and good health to the elderly, so this practice is always held at the first day of the New Year. Here is a video of awamori being distilled. The word awa () means ‘bubbles’ and ‘mori’ () means distill. If you look at the video you can see how the bubbles rise and swell (which is an indication of alcohol content):

On the fourth of January, there is a ritual called Hinukan Mukee. The Hinukan is the god of the kitchen hearth. It’s believed that the hinukan goes away from December 24th to January 3rd. The eldest woman of the household burns incense and presents offerings of rice and awamori. These offerings are used to welcome the hinukan back to the kitchen hearth. This ritual is important because the hinukan is the guardian of the kitchen hearth.

On the sixteenth of January, there is a ritual called Juuruku Nichi, which is a type of ancestor remembrance day. On this day, people offer offerings of awamori, flowers, incense, or rice cakes to their ancestors. This is a day where the whole family visits the tombs (picture left) of those who have passed away. Some people also offer short prayers as well. When visiting an ancestor’s tomb, there are several taboo behaviors which should be avoided. Shouting or speaking ill of the dead, as well as pointing directly at the tomb is considered rude. It is not unusual for extended family members to gather at the ancestor’s tomb and have a picnic afterwards.

Keep learning Japanese with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. apple407:

    How wise the ancients were, makes absolute sense to me.