What Is Shuri Castle?
From 1429 to 1829, the Okinawa prefecture was an independent country named Ryukyu, and the Shuri castle was where its kings resided. The castle was located on a hilly area in what is now called the Shuri district in Naha city in the Okinawa prefecture.
After WWII and following the construction of Ryukyu University, the Shuri castle was torn down completely, and then it was reconstructed in 1992. In 2000, the Shuri Castle was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it became one of the most popular sightseeing spots in Okinawa.
What to See?
1. Various Gates with many stories
When going up the gentle slope toward the entrance to Shuri Castle, you will first see the Shureimon Gate, which means “to value courtesy.”
After the Shureimon gate, a citadel and the Kankaimon Gate will appear in front of you. This gate was meant to welcome messengers from the kings of China. Two “Shisa” statues stand on both sides of the gate. They are believed to protect people from evil.
On the way to the ticket booth, you’ll pass through the Rokokumon Gate. Rokoku means “water clock” in Chinese. Back then, a water clock was placed here, and people measured time by the amount of water that dripped out of it.
2. The Una Plaza and the Palace
As you proceed, the Una Plaza spreads out in front of you. This open space was used for various ceremonies during the Ryukyu period. On the ground, you can see red and white lines, which divided the ceremony’s participants and showed them were to line up, according to rank.
Inside Shuri castle, there are three floors, all of which have rich collections of Ryukyu kingdom artifacts. Not only these relics but also the castle’s Ryukyu-style architecture itself is also worth giving a closer look.
At the end of your Shuri castle visit, locals often travel to the Nishi-no-Azana. It is a watchtower in the west of the castle that offers a magnificent view. From here, you can see the entire Naha city, and sometimes as far as the Kerama Islands, if the weather permits.
Since the Ryukyu Kingdom flourished due to seaborne trading over the East China Sea, it had a strong influence on various neighboring countries, such as Japan, China, and other Southeast Asian countries. The Shuri Castle is a place where you can enjoy the fusion of several different cultures at once.