Doesn’t matter where you go on Okinawa you are always close to some tombs. They are everywhere. Come out of your front door – tombs. Wander around the sugar cane fields – tombs. Hang out on the beach -tombs. I have not found one in my kitchen yet but probably not trying hard enough. As I understand it, the religion on Okinawa is one of ancestor worship. This from Wikipedia:
“Traditionally, periodic gatherings of the extended family occur at the family shinju (haka), or “tomb” (v. inf. for information concerning the traditional dates of these gatherings). The tombs resemble houses, complete with a courtyard (naa), family name markers, and “porch” upon which offerings are arranged. Inside the tomb is stored the cremated remains (funishin) of several generations of family members. Although responsibilities may vary on a case-by-case basis, generally it is the oldest male of a family whose financial responsibility is upkeep for existing tombs and establishment of new tombs once the old are full or should it be destroyed.”
There seem to be two main designs that I will call Fortress and Pagoda. Fortress are the one you see in the photos above. They resemble horseshoes. The older ones are made from stone whereas modern ones are big slabs of very ugly concrete. Pagoda style are smaller and basically look like small er pagodas. They are made from stone, concrete or marble.
Frequently on the tombs you find Shisa. These are a pair of dogs that essentially bring good fortune. You see them everywhere in Okinawa.Read all about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shisa
This is not an ancient tradition that is dying out. Tomb stores are doing a thriving trade. Invest now.
Thanks to Robert Burns for the epitaphs.