Inu no ukanshin-udui and the Motobu Udun

Motobu Naoki

Translation by Aaron Meldahl

Crown Ship Dance Record
Crown Ship Dance Record

Surviving documentation of the history of ryūkyū buyō, like that of karate, is scarce, and at present many historians rely on records written by visiting Chinese imperial envoys. An exception to this is the investiture ceremony of King Sho Iku (1813-1847) in 1838, also known as inu no ukanshin because it took place in the year of the dog (inu) in the old calendar. In this case, the program, script, and performers are recorded by Iha Fuyu (1876-1947) in his Ryūkyū gikyoku-shu (Collection of Ryukyuan Drama) of 1929 and the Kanshin odorikata nikki (Crown Ship Dance Record) of 1836-1838. Therefore, we are able to know about the performances in detail.

For example, in Ryūkyū gikyoku-shu, the names of the dancers of Amakawa are recorded, among them one Oroku Satonushi. Just from this, who exactly this was is not clear, but looking at the Kanshin odorikata nikki, it can be seen that he was the eldest son of the Oroku family of Tōnukura in Shuri.

Additional information can be found in Higaonna Kanjun's dictionary of Okinawa and Amami place names (Nantō fūdoki) from 1950. This volume tells us who lived in what area of Shuri. Here it is recorded that the Oroku family of Tōnukura was the head of the Ba clan and lords of Oroku Magiri. In addition, the Oroku genealogical records identify Oroku Satonushi as the 12th head of the Oroku Tunchi, Oroku Uēkata Ryochu (1819 - ?). Ryochu's fourth daughter, Umimuta, became Motobu Choyu's wife. Thus, the dancer of Amakawa in the records was Choyu's father-in-law.

Likewise in the Ryūkyū gikyoku-shu, one Motobu-shi is identified as dancing the part of the mother in the kumiodori called Gosamaru-tekiuchi. Another Motobu-shi is identified as performing in the kumiodori called Chushi migawari no maki. The suffix "shi" was used in the titles of aristocratic youths who had just reached their coming of age, so these individuals were probably around 15 or 16 at the time.


Again referring to the Kanshin odorikata nikki, these youths are further identified as the eldest son and third son of the Motobu family of Akahira in Shuri. Furthermore, according to Higaonna's dictionary, the Motobu family residing in Akahira were landed aji--none other than the Motobu Udun. Unfortunately, the Motobu geneological records were lost in the Battle of Okinawa, and we cannot know for certain who the eldest and third son at the time were. Considering the year of the performance, it could have been the father of Motobu Choyu and Choki, Motobu Aji Choshin, and his brother.


Interestingly, the position of odoribugyō for the inu no ukanshin-udui is recorded as being filled by four people: Haneji Aji, Tanahara Uēkata, Matamahashi Pēchin, and Motobu Satonushi Pēchin. The last title was usually used for the second and younger sons of the Motobu Udun or the head of the Shoso Motobu ("the lesser" Motobu) branch of the family, who were descendants of Motobu Chokyu's fourth son, Choki. The genealogical records of the Shoso family still exist, and there is no mention of anyone being appointed odoribugyō. Therefore, it is likely that the odoribugyō known as Motobu Satonushi Pēchin was a brother of the head of the Motobu Udun at the time.