Futenma Gongen

Futenma Shrine

Useful Information

Location: Ginowan City. Off Highway 330, just down the road from Camp Foster's Legion Gate.
Open: 30-JUN 18:00.
All year by request.
Fee: free, donations accepted. [2007]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=280 m.
Guided tours: L=50 m.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1590 first written mention of the shrine.
1991 Ginowan City designated cultural assets to shrine and cave.
1945 used as an air raid shelter during the Battle of Okinawa.


Futenma Gongen is a small Shinto shrine in the city of Ginwan, close to the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. There are two ornate gold-laced buildings that combine classic Japanese and Okinawan architecture. This place of tranquility and worship, guarded by an ancient torii, is used for worship by many Okinawans. And often Japanese women who married American soldiers from the nearby mititary base come to the shire with their husband before they are deployed to war zones. The worship purifies the men so that they will have power to ward off evils.

Close to the shrine is a small cave of great beauty. It contains many speleothems and the bones of deer and wild boars, about 20,000 years old. How long the cave has been frequented by man is not known, but people were worshiping at the cave before recorded history and long before the shrine was built. According to legend, the cave was home to a young woman of matchless beauty who later became a goddess.

The temples were built about 500 years ago during the first Sho dynasty by King Sho Kinpuku. Once a straight road existed, from the king's residence through the torii to the shrine. So the king could travel directly to the shrine for worship. Prior to World War II, there still was a beautiful avenue of pine trees. This road does not exist any more, it was where now Marine Corps Air Station Futenma lies.

The presence of the US army is a result of lost World War II. During the Battle of Okinawa, which lasted from late March through June 1945, the cave was used as an air raid shelter. This battle is called Typhoon of Steel in English, or tetsu no ame in Japanese, which gives an impression of the ferocity of the fighting. At least 150,000 civilians were killed during the battle.

The cave is open to the public every year on 30-JUN, when people walk the 50m long trail through the cave. Walking the 50 m long through cave is a symbol for going back to ones mother's womb and being reborn, the walkers are purified. This through trip is made by about 800 people every year. Although this through trip is closed the rest of the year, shrine visitors may ask to visit the cave.

The cave is entered through a vaulted door located behind the shrines. Moss covered limestone stairs lead down to the cave entrance where the oldest altars of the shrine are located. Visitors are asked to pay their respects to the spirits before entering the caves. There are two stalagmites, which are said to symbolize fertility with their phallic forms. Many couples who with to have children come here to pray for fertility. The path once passes over a small rivulet on a footbridge, according to legend a wish made while crossing the bridge will come true. The cave has three chambers, the largest is the last one, which is 15 m wide and 6 m high and called the inner shrine. At the end of the cave is metal-grated door which is opened only once every year on 30-JUN at 18:00 to celebrate the end of the rainy season. This is the reason why visitors have to return through the cave the rest of the year,