Developed as the seat of the Ryukyu Kingdom, it is a gusuku which represents Okinawa.
For 450 years from 1429 to 1879, the Ryukyu Kingdom was a monarchy-based nation in which Shuri Castle was its administrative center. The model for the castle was Shikin-jo Castle in China so it didn’t have a castle tower as was the case in Japanese castles. However, Japanese architectural style could also be seen everywhere such as the gables done in the Karahafu style. With these Chinese and Japanese styles, the distinctive Ryukyuan architecture could be observed which matched the natural features of Okinawa. The castle burned down during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II in 1945, but in 1992, structures such as the main palace were restored. However, only a part of the entire 5ha area is open to the public as the Shuri Castle Park as restoration is taking place to this day.
The main palace shining in vermilion as the main part of the Shuri Castle tour.
After passing through Houshin-mon Gate, head for Una Garden at the main palace for Shuri Castle. From this point onwards, admission is necessary. Since shoes are prohibited from the South Hall to the main palace, bringing slippers would be handy. The main palace in the center of Shuri Castle looks like a 2-story structure but it is actually a 3-story wooden building. The 1st floor was used by the King for state affairs and formal ceremonies while the 2nd floor was the place for ceremonies involving the King, his family and court ladies. The 3rd floor was an attic for the purposes of air ventilation. When looking out over the main palace from the garden, many dragons can be seen. And even inside on either side of the staircase in the main palace, there are sculptures of 4.1m dragons. These are called the Great Dragon Pillars, and with the dragon as a symbol of the Emperor of which there are no examples even in China, it is a unique Ryukyuan feature.
Plenty to see in the free area!
Shurei-mon Gate outside of the castle was built in the middle of the 16th century. This was also burned down in the Battle of Okinawa, but after its restoration in 1958, it has become a symbol for Okinawan tourism. It has a beautiful appearance with its red tiles and its picture was even used on the 2000-yen bill. Beyond that are the stone gates of Sonohyan-utaki which also cannot be missed. Constructed from Ryukyuan limestone, it is a place of worship where the King’s safety was prayed for whenever he left the castle. It is made into the form of gates but it isn’t a structure for people to pass through; instead, it is a place that, in a manner of speaking, is a worship gate for the gods. It has been nationally recognized as an Important Cultural Property and along with what remains of Shuri Castle, is also a World Heritage site.