A red castle that ruled a long-lost kingdom
When you visit Shuri Castle in Okinawa, you can’t help but be transported back in time. The majestic buildings and beautiful architecture make you feel like you’re stepping into a different era. Although the buildings have been lovingly restored, they hold a rich history that dates back centuries.
One of the most iconic structures in Shuri Castle is the Shurei-mon Gate. This gate was built by King Sho Sei in the early 16th century and served as the ceremonial entrance to the castle. Walking through this gate, you can’t help but feel a sense of grandeur and regality.
Another important site in the castle complex is the Sonohyan Utaki Ishimon, a stone gate entrance to a sacred grove. This grove was where prayers for a safe journey were offered whenever the king left the castle. The stone gate is a testament to the spiritual beliefs and traditions of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
As you explore the castle grounds, you’ll come across the Kinjocho Ishidatamimichi, a beautiful stone pathway that leads through a grove of trees. These trees are said to be over 300 years old, and walking along this pathway gives you a sense of tranquility and connection to nature.
If you’re interested in traditional Okinawan textiles, a visit to Shuri Ryusen is a must. Here, you can discover the art of creating bingata and ryusen, two types of handmade textiles that are unique to Okinawa. Watching the skilled artisans at work and learning about the history and techniques of these textiles is a fascinating experience.
Getting to Shuri Castle is easy. It is just a five-minute bus ride or a 15-20-minute walk from Shuri Station on the Okinawa Monorail. If you’re coming from central Naha, you can take the number one bus and get off at Shurijo Koen Iriguchi. The castle is conveniently located and easily accessible for visitors.
Shuri Castle has a rich history that dates back to the 13th century. It was originally built by Shunbajunki, the second king of Chuzan, and has played a key role in many of the struggles and conflicts that have shaped the region. Over the centuries, the castle has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, each time rising from the ashes.
The most recent reconstruction of Shuri Castle took place in 1992 after it was bombed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The castle you see today is a beautiful restoration of the original structure, with the interior of the main building restored to its original style. The north and south halls, however, were destroyed by fire in 2019 and are currently being prepared for restoration.
Despite the recent damage, Shuri Castle remains a remarkable testament to the history and culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The castle stands on top of a hill, providing a commanding view of Naha. From its vantage point, you can see the city spread out before you, a reminder of the castle’s former role as the capital of Okinawa.
Inside the castle, you’ll find modern museums in the north and south halls. These museums house a variety of exhibits that bring the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom to life. From artifacts and historical documents to interactive displays and multimedia presentations, there is plenty to see and learn about the rich heritage of the region.
As you explore the castle complex, you’ll also come across the King’s Gate. This gate, known as Shurei-mon Gate, was originally built in the early 16th century and has been rebuilt multiple times. Its distinctive seven-meter high red-tiled roof is a symbol of the grandeur and importance of the castle.
In fact, Shurei-mon Gate is so iconic that it was featured on a special 2,000 yen note to commemorate the 28th G8 summit held in Okinawa. The gate is often mistaken for the castle itself, but its name actually means “eternal courtesy” in Chinese. It serves as a reminder of the cultural exchange and influence that the Ryukyu Kingdom had with its neighbors.
Unfortunately, in October 2019, a fire completely destroyed most of the main castle structures. However, reconstruction preparations have already begun, and the castle is scheduled to be fully restored by 2026. During the reconstruction period, visitors have the unique opportunity to tour the valuable reconstruction process and witness the dedication and craftsmanship that goes into rebuilding such a historic site.
Shuri Castle is not just a historical site, but also a symbol of resilience and perseverance. It has withstood the test of time, rising from the ashes time and time again. Its restoration and preservation are a testament to the importance of preserving cultural heritage and ensuring that future generations can learn from and appreciate the rich history of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
In conclusion, Shuri Castle is a remarkable destination that offers a glimpse into the history and culture of Okinawa. From its majestic buildings and beautiful architecture to its rich exhibits and historical artifacts, there is plenty to see and do in and around the castle complex. Despite the recent damage, the castle remains a symbol of resilience and a testament to the enduring legacy of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply looking to immerse yourself in the beauty of Okinawa, a visit to Shuri Castle is a must.
Address And Maps Location:
1-2 Shurikinjo-cho, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken