Series—Japan’s World Heritage Site: Visiting Okinawa’s Shurijo Castle
The Ryukyu Kingdom existed for 450 years in Japan’s Nansei Islands. In the year 2000, Gusuku (castle) and Imperial mausoleum, along with other monuments that represent those days characteristically became UNESCO World Heritage Site as “Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu.” Here, we introduce you to famous spots of Shurijo Castle and its vicinity.
Shurijo Castle —The symbol of Ryuku Kingdom
Shurijo Castle, brilliant vermilion is the symbol of Okinawa. Okinawa developed a culture of their own by dynamic trading with China, Japan, and countries of Southeast Asia. Shurijo Castle played a central role in the kingdom’s politics, economy, and culture. Characteristically, all the buildings, built during the dynastic period including the castle’s Main Hall face west, and it is said that this was to show respect to China, the suzerain of Ryukyu.
The Main Hall is 3 stories high, built in a unique Ryuku style construction method, adopting the architectural styles of both the Chinese Imperial Court and Japan. The first floor is called “Shichagui,” where the king himself conducted his political affairs and ceremonies. The second floor is “Ufugui,” for the queen and high-ranking maids. It is said that various rituals and banquets were taken place in here.
●Shurijo Castle Park, 1-2, Shuri-Kinjo-cho, Naha-shi, Okinawa
●Closed on first Wednesday and Thursday of July
Sonohyanutaki Gate—where prayers for a safe journey was made
On your way to the castle’s Main Hall, you will see Sonohyanutaki Gate. “Utaki” is a holy ground, related to the Ryukyu Kingdom, an object of worship, a place where god exists, and ancestors are enshrined. The stone gate beside the Shureimon Gate and the surrounding forest are called “Utaki,” and it is said that during the dynastic period, the king prayed at the stone gate for a peaceful trip each time he left the castle. The stone structure is a unique Okinawan style, adopting both Japanese and Chinese methods. Today, it is a sacred power spot, and many people visit the place to pray for safety and the like.
●Shurijo Park, 1-7, Shurimawashi, Naha-shi, Okinawa
Tamaudun—a mausoleum protected by elaborate stone carvings
It is a mausoleum for the Ryuku Kindom, located near the Shurijo Castle. Mausoleums are graves for kings and other members of the royal family, and since Ryukyu had a strong tendency of ancestor worship, their graves were usually made extravagantly. When a king died, the body enshrined in the central compartment for several years, and when it became only bones, they would burial. Then, they entombed the kings and queens in the eastern compartment, and the rest of the royal family in the western compartment. The railings have elaborate stone carvings such as Chinese phoenixes, dragons, and water lilies.
*The above information was last updated February 6, 2017. For further details, please contact the facilities directly.
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