Sonaido and Sanai-Isoba – the Hercules of Ohatake, Iriomote, and superhuman priestess of Yonaguni

‘The origin of Ohatake:

In ancient times a man called Sonaido lived in Iriomote village. His height exceeded 6 shaku (180 cm.) and his strength was superhuman.
He built a house at a place called ohaketa (sic I). One fine day he climbed up a hill and looked out in all directions, when he noticed the faint outline of an island to the west. He got a warship ready, assembled several score of brave men and with a favourable wind set sail for Yonaguni. He won in battle, took several of the island’s headmen prisoner and made them surrender. Later these events were duly reported to the Throne and the prisoners handed over. Accordingly, all Yonaguni ships plying between this island (Ishigaki) and Yonaguni make it a rule to this very day to stop at Iriomote and worship the fire deity at Ohatake.’

All Yonagunian ships call at a place called Ohatake at Sonai village, suggesting an ancestral place of worship, on Iriomote island.

Around 1700, Keraikedagusuku family were sent by the central government to the island of Yonaguni to rule, and they were called Master of Yonaguni (confirmed by the genealogy of the family. Lord of Iriomote

Yonaguni history is shrouded in complete mystery. Neither local traditions, nor outside sources provide reliable data for a reconstruction. Official written sources like the court gazette of the ‘Shuri ofu’ (AD 1707) offer no detailed information on the outlying Yayeyama islands, let alone isolated Yonaguni. The Yaeyama to yurai ki and other locally compiled documents, originally in 7 voumes, was lost in the tidal wave of AD 1771; and it was subsequenty reconstructed by order of the ocfficias Miyara, Ishigaki and Ohama.

Sanai-Isoba. In local tradition the key figure is the female chieftain Sanai-Isoba.
Ikema and Arazato (1957:46) expain the name as a combination of the gven female name Isoba with the plae-name Sanai which in turn denotes the place of the gajumaru’ (ficus retusa, small-leafed banyan).

Sanai-Isoba is a female of superhuman stature and strength; she performed astonishing feats and taught the islanders agriculture and improved ways of life. She also established her four brothers as village heads of Donanbaru, Dateg, Dannu, and Tebaru. She is said to have gone abroad to Ishigaki and Iriomote, thereby initiating a cultural pattern, whereby the less advanced ust learn from their superiors, viz. the Okinawans from the Chinese, the Miyakoans from the Okinowans and so forth, isolated, marginal Yonaguni was the lowest rung on the ladder.
Is Sanai-Isoba a historical person and if so when did she live? Every Yonaguni child can point out the field ‘where her house once stood’ and knows the location of her grave where under a large tree village trials were held until quite recently
Sannai Isobai s worshipped in a ritual which takes place once a year. The high ranking Chimafuka family consider her their ancestor and until a generation ago reckoned from her its matrilineal descent.

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