Exposure to History and Culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom World Heritage Site “Shuri Castle”
post : 2014.08.10 18:00
Being unknown exactly when it was constructed, Shuri Castle is said to have been built in the end of 14C and is the symbol of the Ryukyu Kingdom that lasted about 450 years.
Being the center of politics, economy and culture, the castle functioned as a royal palace.
Fires and wars destroyed Shuri Castle four times through its history, and the present castle was reconstructed in 1992 after being devastated during the battle of Okinawa in 1945.
Shuri Castle was designated as World Heritage Site in 2000 and has been well known as a must-visit site to learn about the history of Okinawa.
Going through several gates to the Seiden, or State Hall, the first gate you find is “Shurui-mon Gate,” which is proudly displayed on the 2,000 yen note.
In front of the graceful gate with red-tiled roofs, you can always hear:
“Let’s take a souvenir picture! Say cheese!”
This is a very popular photo-taking spot during tours of Shuri Castle.
After passing Shurei-mon, you will see “Sonohyan Utaki Ishimon Stone Gate” on the left. Actually it is also a World Heritage Site. Whenever the king left the castle on a journey, he would first stop at Sonohyan-utaki to pray for safe travels.
The next one is the main gate to Shuri Castle, “Kankai-mon Gate.” As soon as you step through the gate, you are inside of the castle, surrounded by high stoneblock walls.
Inside the castle stand staff members, in court officials' costumes of those days.
According to color of the caps and belts they are wearing, you can tell what the officials' ranks are.
The next gate is “Zuisen-mon Gate.” ‘Zuisen’ means ‘great, auspicious fountain,” so the gate was named after the fountain called “Ryuhi (dragon head water conduit)” in front of the gate.
This is the Ryuhi. The water gushing out of the dragon head has been said to be auspicious, and was used as a drinking water for the royal palace.
After that, you will pass through “Roukoku-mon Gate,” ”Koufuku-mon Gate,” ”Houshin-mon Gate” and finally to the Seiden, or State Hall.
Have you counted how many gates you have gone through from the Shurei-mon Gate to the Seiden?
As many as six gates!
For your information, if you go further from the Houshin-mon Gate, you will be in Pay Area.
At Keizuza and Youmotsuza in “Shicha-nu-una (lower courtyard),” which is in the Free Area before the Houshin-mon Gate, you can appreciate graceful Ryukyuan dance every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and National Holidays (three times a day).
After the Houshin-mon Gate, the vivid vermillion colored Seiden greets you.
The hall is a three-story structure with double roofs, which impresses visitors with a unique architectural format blended with cultures of China and Japan.
It is interspersed with sculptures of shisa (guardian lion dog) and dragons, which is the symbol of the king.
There are totally 33 dragon ornaments inside and outside of the Seiden, including a pair of large dragon pillars standing at both sides of the main entrance. It is also fun to find other dragon motifs, from small to large.
Entering the Nanden or South Hall, which is on the right-hand side when facing the Seiden, you can enjoy exhibits of art and artifacts of the Ryukyu Kingdom period. Also, you can observe the King’s Study and the Sasunoma, or Princes’ Anteroom.
Keep going, and you will walk into the really gorgeous Seiden.
The Hokuden, or North Hall, is on the left-hand side when facing the Seiden. It was used as a main administrative office, and now has an exhibition hall, a souvenir shop and a viewing plaza.
In addition, the castle grounds have the Kyo-no-Uchi, or a sacred ritual space, and the Iri-no-Azana, or Western Lookout , which is 130 m above sea level, and many more to see.
There is an interesting game for children called “Stamp Rally,” too.
As the premises of the castle has many slopes and stone pavements, I would recommend wearing something easy to walk in.
After sunset, the illuminated Shuri Castle is really fantastic, displaying its serene existence.
The night view around the castle is gorgeous as well, so please check out Shuri Castle at night!
And on top of that, near the castle are the Bezaiten-do Hall, which enshrines the goddess of water, the world heritage site Tamaudun or Royal Mausoleum, the Kinjo-cho Stone Pavement, which still remains as it was in 16C.
I would recommend you go a little further to explore the neighborhood.
Shuri Castle has its own beauty, which is totally different from that of Japanese castles.
Thinking about the ancient kingdom, please fully relish the flourishing culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Address: 1‐2, Shuri Kinjo Town, Naha City
Opening Hours (for Free Area): 8:00 to 19:30
（From July to September : to 20:30, From December to March: to 18:30）
Opening Hours (for Pay Area): 8:30 to 19:00
（From July to September : to 20:00, From December to March: to 18:00）
Closed: The first Wednesday of July and the following day
Admission Fee: 820 yen for Adult, 620 yen for Senior High School Student, 310 yen for Elementary & Junior High School Student, Free for Child under 6 .
Okinawa CLIP Editorial Department (Tex by Akiko Ono, Photo by Taiki Gushiken)