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Noros praying at Yaharazukasa where it is believed that Amamikyo set the first step on the main island of Okinawa.
Photo: TARUMI Kengo

The god who created Okinawa. In the second volume of Omorosaushi, the collection of Ryukyu Court ballads (edited three times, first published in 1531), Lord Tedako (teda is the sun, ko is the child – the god of Sun) orders Amamikyo and Shinerikyo to create islands and human. Chūzan Seikan (1650), the oldest history book of Okinawa, also details the creation of Okinawa as the achievement of Amamiku. The ku in Amamiku is a variant of ko. Ko is the child, which implies people. The kyo in Amamikyo is the same as this ko. Amamikyo, therefore, signifies the people of Amami.

Although it is unclear how related they are, Amami brings to mind the Amami (奄美) Islands. The first ever written evidence of Amami is in the Nihon Shoki, the third year of Emperor Saimei (657), with the record of two men and four women of Tokara washed ashore on the Amami (海見) Island before reaching Tsukushi. Some say that Tokara is the Tokara Islands of Kagoshima, but the prevailing theory holds that it is a kingdom that once existed near the Mekong River in present-day Thailand. If so, interestingly, it would mean that the ancient Japanese had encountered foreigners as early as the 7th century. Amami would thus be the place where those foreigners drift ashore. In the southwestern islands, especially in Yaeyama, it is believed that there is a utopia somewhere to the south. If such a belief also existed in ancient Japan, it follows that Amami would have been imagined as the gate to this utopia. Although, this does not necessarily mean that Amami (奄美) was named from the Yamato perspective. In any case, Okinawa was the land of the people of the sea who had a network with foreigners from long ago.

Perhaps, Amami is related to ama in amai (sweet). Sweetness is not just a taste; it describes something wonderful, so Amami must also suggest a world of wonders. This ama relates to how heaven is called ama(天). Heaven is the world of gods. Amamikyo came down from heaven and created Okinawa. The world of origin is called aman-yū ( is yo (世), namely the world), and this word still lives on today.