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map of Sai no Kawara

Sai no Kawara

How to get

Get off the #4 bus (Uchikaifu-sen) at "Negai" bus stop. Go through the Negai Village. An esplanade starts at the end of the village. You see a waterfall on the steep slope of right hand side. Sai no Kawara is just behind the natural rock arch that is shown by Photo.93.1. It is also accessible from Futatsu Game. In either way, you need put on good shoes to walk on rough esplanades "Name"

Photo.93.1 Natural Arch that you go through before Sai no Kawara

It is a cave at the rugged seashore with its mouse opening toward the sea. There are a lot of little Buddhist statues and piled-up stones. This is the place to pray for those who died very young. Each little statue means a death of very young children. Probably visiting this place makes you feel sad. Or perhaps you may think that you should live your life more purposefully.

Actually there is another "Sai no Kawara" on a small island of Tobishima in Yamagata Prefecture. Tobishima people give you a caution, or even a warning "DO NOT take any single stone to other place". Doing so causes unhappy things to you mysteriously. Such Tobishima-like warning is not heard of about Sado's "Sai no Kawara". But also for Sado's Sai no Kawara, you would not think it is okay to take a stone from there if you read the following.

The explanation board at Futatsu Game says about Sai no Kawara: "This is a sacred spot meant to be a ‘Limbo of Infants'"1). Kawara means a shore of river. But the "Kawara" of "Sai no Kawara" is not just a shore of river flowing on the ground. It is the shore of the river "Sanzu no Kawa" flowing between this world and the other world. A dead person crosses the Rive of Sanzu on the seventh day of death.

If a young kid or baby died, not being allow to cross the river soon, he or she has to stay at that river shore and keep on making a tower by piling up small stones. A young dead thinks doing so would be consolation of father and mother. But a big devil comes and, to agonize the young dead, breaks the tower in the making. Yet the child continues to do the same. Eventually, Jizo-Bosatsu, the guardian deity of children, comes in to save the child from the agony. This folk belief is thought to come from beliefs on Jizo-Bosatsu2).

It is believed; If parents who lost their child came here, they could meet a little Buddhist statue whose face is their lost child's and could listen to that child's crying. On the other, if a dead child came here and looked at a rainbow in the sky, the child could see mother's face, although it would be an illusion because this world and the other world are separated completely 3).

Photo.93.2 Negai Village near Sai no Kawara

The nearby village is "Negai" which sounds and looks very impressive because it means "Wish". There is no accepted view about the origin of the village name, but the most plausible opinion is that it came from two letters "Ne" meaning ‘root' and "Kai" meaning ‘seashell'. Both characters imply to relation to fishery in the vicinity of seashore. The old record of the village in the document reads "Nekai [根貝]" 4). So maybe Nekai turned to be "Negai [願]". Fishery within short distance from seashore is also implied by the following episode. In the beginning of Showa Era (1926-1989), so probably in 1930s, a Japanese guy came from outside of the island. He brought several Korean female free divers to Negai village5). Those ladies who can collect marine products are called "Ama" in Japanese.

Let us look at some episodes of Negai in history. In 1587, "Nekai" appeared in a document of ‘Sado Koraiki' 6). In 1762, An earthquake and tsunami hit the Nagai village on September 15th. All the houses were destroyed7).

In 1849, the village people found a foreign ship sailing near Ono Game. One boat was approaching the shore, but without landing, the ship left for southwest8).

In 1864, the fire burned all the houses except one. As of the time when Ryotsu history book was written, Negai people still set the prayer day on September 24. On the day people do not work on the sea or the mountain, but they pray9).

In 1934, the fire again, 9 houses in eastern half of the village were burnt. After the fire, a human-powered pump for extinguisher was introduced to the village10).

In 1947, 15 families settled on the tableland of 300 meter high from the sea level. lt was "Nijudaira" behind Negai village. Most of the families were Japanese coming back from Pseudo-Manchukuo11). All the families left the Nijudaira in 196112).

In 1950, a floating object exploded and killed four children13). Even after the war, many people were killed by drifting mines placed during WWII. It was not on Sado but on the mainland Niigata, one of such explosions happened at Nadachi on March 30, 1949. 63 people were killed by the explosion. Most of the victims were children14).

In 1965 the vehicle road from Washizaki opened. It made possible for people to move by their own cars15).

Those are a kind of micro history of a small village of Negai in north tip of Sado. The creator of this website stayed one night in Negai 30 years ago. Negai is small but very impressive village. As of 2019, still some guest houses "Minshuku" are doing their businesses, so you can stay the night at Negai.