Chinto's Cave

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There seems to be a common misconception in the west about Chinto.  At first I believed the stories about him being a pirate and living in a cave and what not too, but when I started researching this matter it really started falling apart very quickly.  So this is summary of what I found out about the event itself and the cave that is attributed to Chinto.

So first thing first, let's look at "Chinto's Cave".  This is really important so please make sure to note this, but infront of the cave is a marker stone.  The kanji on this stone says "地頭火神", which translates to "Temple of the Fire God".  Wait, Chinto wasn't a fire God!  Right... he wasn't, and he didn't live in this cave either.  This cave is called Furuferin Dokutsu (フルフェーリン洞窟), and is believed to be the home of the Hinukan (の神), who is the God of the Hearth in the original Okinawan religion called Tenpi.

The cave itself is very shallow, and inside there is a shrine to the fire god.  I asked several Okinawan people who were in the area what they knew about the cave and I got the same response from every one of them, that is the cave of the Hearth God.  Saying it's the cave of Chinto is just karate business to bring tourists to the area, but the cave itself is significant to the Okinawan people, just not how karate salesmen want you to think it is.

Ok now onto Chinto himself.  There are 4 sources that were used to put this information together, since not all of them told the full story.  Three of these sources are from the Ryukyu Shimpo from 1899, 1904, and 1914.  The fourth was a side note in the koseki of the Teruya family.

There is a string of events that you also need to be aware of and it explains why this individual was treated the way he was.  First is what is called the "Mudan Incident".  The Mudan Incident occurred in 1871, when 54 shipwrecked Ryukyuan sailors crashed on Taiwan.  Forty-two of these sailors were murdered by the aboriginal people of Taiwan, and the remaining 12 were rescued by some Han Chinese and were transferred to Miyako (宮古島) and handed over to the Japanese Navy who got their story then returned them home.  This story of the murder of 42 Ryukyuan sailors was not taken lightly and in 1874 the Japanese Navy retaliated against Taiwan.

So now that you have some of the background, let's look at 1872.  In late spring of 1872 a man washed ashore near Onna Village Okinawa.  He spoke a strange dialect of Chinese that the residents of Onna couldn't figure out, so they suspected he was from Taiwan, and because of this the Pechin in the area arrested him and took him to the Tomari area to try to find a translator who could communicate with the man.  The Pechin Matsumora Kosaku ultimately took charge of the man and found a translator.  The dialect he spoke in was Minh Chinese, which was a bit different from what most of the local people were used to hearing.  During the questioning of the man, it was discovered that his name was Mr. Lao (no first name is ever mentioned in any of the sources), he was a sailor from a merchant ship that was headed to Korea and a typhoon got them off course.  He was from Nan'an (南安市 /map) in the southern Fujian Province.  Shortly after this the local Pechin released the man and told him he could go home.  Mr. Lao was staying with the Teruya family in Tomari awaiting transportation, and began teaching a style of Nanquan that he knew to make money so he could pay for quicker accommodations to go home, he was only on Okinawa for a few months.

So what did this man teach?  Luckily for us in a 1904 interview with Asato Anko he covered who learned what from Mr. Lao or the man from Fukushu Annan (which is Uchinaguchi for Fujian Nan'an).  The material listed is:  Gusukuma and Kanashiro learned Chinto kata.  Matsumora and Yamada learned Chinte kata.  Yamada (Geiki) learned Ji'in kata.  Nakazato learned Jitte kata.

In summary, the common story about Chinto being in a cave and whatnot is actually somewhat linked to old Okinawan folklore (not related to this event).  It seems that over the years with the telling and retelling of this story elements and different people kept coming into play which actually had nothing to do with this event.  I am very sorry to let everyone down with this, but from what I can tell this is the truth of the event.  There was no cave (the cave is attributed to the Okinawan Hearth God), there was no plundering of a village (he stayed with a local family who took care of him), he didn't teach a massive list of kata, and he wasn't a monk.  The true part of the story is he was arrested for possibly being a pirate associated with the Taiwanese who executed 42 Ryukyuan (Okinawan) sailors the previous year, once it was sorted out he was released.

Gambatte Kudasai,
Scot