Shurijo Castle 首里城

I’ve been writing about Okinawa in the past few posts and I’d like to finish with seemingly the most popular touristy destination in Okinawa: Shuri Castle.

Built in 14th century, this castle is very unique to the Ryukyu Kingdom, combining Chinese and Japanese culture.  During the battle of Okinawa, it got almost completely burned down. It was partially restored in 1992 and reconstruction has been undertaken still.

The castle is surrounded by hefty stone walls. Like Nakijinjo, they reminded us of British castle remains. These walls were all made with Ryukyu limestone.

There are many gates to the castle. The most famous one would be Shureimon. Shurei means to show courtesy. お城への門はたくさんありますが、一番有名なのは守礼門でしょう。守礼とは、礼節を守るという意味だそうです。

After climbing the hill and enter the gate called Houshinmon (houshin means to worship God), Una (courtyard) and Seiden (main hall) come into sight. Una features red and grey stripes, which were used to confirm where officials stand during ceremonies. This courtyard was used for various ceremonies throughout the year. The path in the middle is called the Ukimichi and only the King and Chinese envoys were allowed to walk.

The Seiden is beautifully decorated with local lacquer. It has three stories and decorative dragon pillars are used. These architectural elements are apparently very unique to Ryukyu, not seen in Chinese or Japanese architecture.

Before getting inside of the Seiden, we had to go through the other parts of the castle such as the Nanden and Shoin. Japanese architecture is introduced in these areas so no lacquer is used and minimal and simple style is applied.

In contrast, the Seiden seems all about colour and decoration. The second floor of the Seiden is called Ufugui. This space was used by the queen and court ladies. Usasuka is where the King used to sit for special ceremonies. The stage looks like Shumidan (alter) in temples. The pillars are decorated with golden dragon and five different colours of clouds. On the first floor, there is another Usasuka. This is for the King to carry out affairs of state.

Lavish Ususaka きらびやかな御差床

The castle is located on top of the hill so the view from there is amazing. It’s easy to spend half a day here as it’s got a vast park too.

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