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[Naha Machi Mai]; A Guided Tour Around Shurijo Castle (Naha)
post : 2020.01.27 19:00
There are a number of sightseeing spots within Naha City that are interesting, attractive, and charming. From popular and well-known spots to those off the beaten track, there is definitely much to see in the city. To see what Naha has to offer, I recommend taking part in the Naha Machi Mai tours. “Machi Mai” in the Okinawan language means “to tour the town or visit various areas in town”, and in these tours, experienced guides who are knowledgeable in history and culture of the area will guide you around the neighborhoods of Naha. With various local trivia in the guided tours, this is a very popular tool for visitors.
A variety of courses offered in the tours, including the “Naha Machigwa Tour” which takes you around the shopping arcade surrounding the Makishi Public Market (currently relocated due to reconstruction), and lets the participants get a closer look at the food culture and lifestyles of the local people. There is also the “Tsuboya Yachimun Street and Alleys Tours” that takes you around the historical pottery area of Tsuboya, and the “Kokusai Dori Tour” takes you around the narrow back streets full of interesting spots behind Kokusai Street, the main street in Naha City. Another popular tour is the “Shikinaen World Heritage Tour” that takes the group to the royal Shikinaen Gardens, which was once the largest of the royal family’s villas and where diplomatic guests were entertained, and also functioned as a retreat for the royal family members.
In this article, I’ll introduce the “Shurijo Monogatari (Shurijo Castle Story) Tour” which takes you on a tour around Shurijo Castle, which was the main castle of the Ryukyu Kingdom and center of politics and culture for 450 years from 1429 to 1879. This 60-minute tour takes you around the various sites of interest within Shurijo Castle Park.
As you proceed through the gates of Shureimon, inscribed with the characters “Shurei no Kuni” which can be translated as meaning, “Ryukyu Kingdom is a land of propriety”, you’ll see to your left, the sacred Sonohyan Utaki Ishimon.
Sonohyan Utaki Ishimon is a stone gate that was erected in 1519, and was a place where the king prayed for safety as he set out on trips and outings.
Then, the tour leads you through the gates of Kankaimon, Zuisenmon, Kofukumon, and then to another sacred site, the Suimui Utaki.
The tour continues to Kyono Uchi, the largest area used for religious ceremonies, and then to Kyono Uchi Azana and Irino Azana, the best viewing spots within the castle grounds. Irino Azana is approximately 130 meters in altitude and commands a great view of Naha City, and on clear, sunny days, you can see as far out to the Kerama Islands. Here, you can rest a little as you feel the comfortable breeze.
The tour ends once you reach the grassy area of the Suimuikan where a number of gift shops stand. In the tour that I participated was a gentleman in his 50s who said he became a big fan of Shurijo Castle since his first visit here in 1980, and a couple also in their 50s who were in Okinawa enjoying their visit for the first time in 30 years.
Whether you’re a history buff, or you just like Okinawa and what it has to offer, whatever the reason…The Naha Machi Mai tours offer various courses designed from the perspective of the visitors and for them to enjoy “the deep history that can’t be seen right away” and “Shurijo Castle in the modern times”. The tours offer a chance for the participants to see and feel Okinawa from different angles.
How about joining a guided tour and enjoying Machi Mai, too?
Presently, there are a variety of fundraising and supporting activities for the restoration of Shurijo Castle that saw great devastation in the recent fire. As a citizen of Okinawa, I sincerely hope for the swift and smooth reconstruction of Shurijo Castle.
[Naha Machi Mai Guided Tours]
Rates: 1,000 Yen/Adult (including Jr. High students and older), 500 Yen/Child (elementary school children)
*Rates shown are current as of January 2020.
Meeting Spot: In front of the red mail post in front of the general information, underground (B1) floor of Suimuikan within the Shurijo Castle Park grounds.
Tour Starting Times: 9:30 & 14:00
Inquiries: 098-860-5780 (from 9:00 to 17:00)
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Sachiko Tachi