Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Where is King Gihon Buried?

My thanks go to a reader from Brazil who got me started on the search for a definitive answer to the question: what happened to King Gihon and where is his final resting place? 

How it all started

My earlier post on King Gihon had  said:

 "Finally, despondent over what had befallen the kingdom, he abdicated and went into self-imposed exile in the wilderness.   It is said that he vanished somewhere in the hills at the remote northern tip of the island at Heda-misaki."

My only reference at that time was a brief passage from page 51 of George Kerr’s book.

Curiosity aroused

 My reader friend kindly shared information the following:

  • while staying in Kitanakagusuku, he saw a place called Nasu no Utaki, which claims that three kings are buried there:  Gihon, Shunba-Junki, and Shunten.
  • He added that his grandfather says he was told by his grandmother (the reader’s great-great grandmother!) that King Gihon went to Chunjun-Kitanagusuku because he had a good friend there called Chunjun Ufusu.  He also noted that Chunjun Ufusu is the man who has an Eisa song named after him entitled “Chunjun Nagari.”
So, armed with this intriguing set of clues, I set out on an internet search to see if I could dig up any more information about this mystery of King Gihon's tomb.

Here is what I found

My initial (and only at that time) reference to King Gihon was a few lines from George Kerr’s outstanding book “Okinawa: The History of an Island People, revised edition”.  In it he briefly states on page 51:

". . . Gihon abdicated and 'withdrew into the forest alone.'  The time and place of his death are unknown, although tradition says that he vanished somewhere in the hills at the most remote northern tip of the island, Heda-misaki."

I then found this website which has a post on entitled “The Tomb of King Gihon”.  In the article the author reports that the King is believed to have fled to a place called Asumi near Cape Hedo, and is buried in a tomb in the town of Hedo.   This agrees with George Kerr’s hypothesis.  The Sho royal family is said to have travelled to this tomb in the late 1800’s to restore the burial site, thus perhaps starting this belief.  The author does add a caveat that the data on Hedo is not conclusive, and that others claim the burial site is in Kitanakagusuku.

Hedo-King Gihon Tomb? (ref: "The Tomb of King Gihon" see link in text)

King Shunten –a Slight Detour

Wikipedia is silent on the burial place for King Gihon, but does claim that King Shunten is buried at Urasoe yodore, not Kitanakagusuku, and enshrined at Naminoue Shrine along with three other Kings.  Is this another mystery around King Shunten's tomb?

Searching further, the only information I could find on Urasoe yodore says that King Sho Nei is buried there, along with “three other rulers of the Ryukyu islands”.  Another site mentions King Sho Nei and King Eiso as being buried at Urasoe yodore.  I was not able to find any other mention of King Shunten being buried there.

Regarding the Naminoue Shrine, Wikipedia claims that this shrine has a long history and in 1924 was designated as the official center of religious affairs on the island.  It also states that Kings Shunten, Sho En, Sho Nei, and Sho Tai are enshrined there (not buried).

Back to King Gihon

Finally I discovered this website talking about Kitanakagusuku.  There it states that King Gihon, along with King Shunten and King Shunba Junki, are entombed at the Nasu no Utaki Shrine.  At last, I found a site that provides a positive assertion about King Gihon’s resting place being in Kitanakagusuku, and supports the information that my reader provided, handed down to him from generations of his family members!

So - Where is King Gihon Really Buried?

Based on the limited information I have been able to gather from searching English-only internet sites, but also inspired by my reader’s family story, I am inclined to favor the Kitanakagusuku location as the burial site for King Gihon, not Hedo. 

Nasu-no-Utaki Tomb of King Gihon (ref:  Kitanakagusuku village website-see link in text)

But in the meantime, I am now wondering . . . where is King Shunten really buried?

If anyone has further information on either of these topics, please share!