Shuri Castle – Living Okinawan Heritage
Once the center of power for the Ryukyu Kingdom, Shuri Castle today is a wonderfully vibrant relic of times past. Find out all about it, right here.
Shuri Castle, Okinawa, was built in the fourteenth century to mark out the city as the capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom (an independent kingdom existing from the 15th to the 19th century). It is situated in Naha, the current capital of Okinawa Prefecture in southern Japan. Due to its location, Okinawa’s Shuri Castle has strong architectural influences from both China and Japan, mixed in with its own, unique style. The Ryukyu Kingdom spoke a different language and even today remains culturally distinct from mainland Japan.
Want more castles? Check our article on Japan Castles – the 15 Best Japanese Castles
About Shuri Castle
Shuri Castle, or gusuku in the Okinawan dialect, has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over its long lifespan, the final time as a result of Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Gradually, it has since been opened to the public, beginning in the early 1990s and continuing into the 21st century. Today, it is almost completely accessible and a wonderful reminder of the fabulous architecture and vibrant culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom of times past.
Interesting parts of the castle grounds include the beautiful gates (particularly the Stone Gate Sonohyan-utaki) and harmonic gardens (particularly Shikina-en) that create a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere. Different from the castles on Honshu (Japan’s main island), Shuri Castle’s gardens are also influenced by Chinese park design and feature typical Chinese elements alongside Japanese influences, creating something uniquely Okinawan.
The castle hosted the G8 summit in 2000 and was classified a World Heritage Site in the same year. With almost two million visitors in 2015, Shuri ranked as the tenth most visited castle in the world and the most popular castle in Japan.
Further Info and Events
Okinawa’s Shuri Castle has plenty of events all through the year. There are even activities for you to take part in, such as a trial lesson in traditional instruments. Plenty of the events held at Shuri Castle are of a traditional nature, often featuring locals in traditional dress and revolving around traditional customs. Only in the uniquely multi-cultural Okinawa can spectacles of this kind be witnessed.
Rituals, such as the opening of the inner gate, can also be seen daily. The aforementioned gate opening takes place at 08.00 am and lasts for roughly 45 minutes. The lighting of the temple and gardens at night also takes place every day from sundown to midnight.
Should you want exact information and the full list, there is an event page where you can find the details. To have a look, visit the official Shuri-jo Castle Park Page here.
Mon – Sun
08:30 am – 06.00 pm (December-March),
08:30 am – 07.00 pm (April-June/October-November)
08:30 am – 08.00 pm (July-September)
closed on the first Wednesday and Thursday of July
adult 820 yen
high school 660 yen
primary/middle school 310 yen
(under five years: free)
There is also a free area, accessible for all around the gates and outer gardens. Read more on the official site here.
The castle and grounds are a 10 to 15-minute walk from Shuri Station on the Yui Rail line. This line swings all the way across Naha City from Naha Airport Station to Shuri Station, the last station on the line.
Should you choose to take the bus, there are two stops you can choose between:
Shurijo-Mae Station (bus N°7 and 8)
Shurijo-Koen-Iriguchi Station (bus N°1, 14, 17 and 47). They are both just a few minutes from the entrance away and very convenient.