Shuri Castle seems to always feature in the top things to see while visiting Okinawa and there aren’t too many people that I have talked to here that haven’t been, so it was only a matter of time before we would visit the castle ourselves.
Located in Naha and only a short drive from where we live, although due to traffic and maybe getting a little lost, it took us longer than it probably should have. Plus side to our little detour was that we got to see some really neat neighborhoods that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise; had there been a place to park we would have stopped to take some photos for you!
Okinawa put on another beautiful day for us, as it seems to do so often and Eden was the most eager to get started exploring the castle, while she never voiced it I suspect she thought there may be a Disney Princess living there! It also helped that Shurijo have a map for children where you can choose one of 3 paths to follow and collect stamps along the way. The paths vary in length from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. We opted to do the 90 minute course knowing that we could turn back at any time if a certain little miss started to get cranky.
Shuri, the name of the former capital of the Ryukyu Kindgom, originally built in the 1300s as the administration center and residence of many Ryukyu kings, was sadly destroyed multiple times over the centuries, with the most recent during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The buildings today are stunning reconstructions built in 1992.
The path up to the Seiden was beautiful as we passed through gates and got to enjoy the views of Naha while of course keeping an eye out for the stamp stations for Eden.
Once we reached the Shicha-nu-una we paid 800yen each (kids under 6 are free) to enter onto the Una Plaza which extends in front of the Seiden, back in the day was used for ceremonies, the south side building is known as Nanden, and the north side as Hokuden, both used as administration buildings and venues to welcome visitors.
Opposite the Seiden is the Hoshinmon (Hoshin Gate) whats interesting about this gate is that it isn’t placed at a right angle, so the red path running from Seiden to the gate, runs on an obscure angle – it makes it really confusing when you try to take a photo!
We didn’t quite collect all the stamps for the 90 minute course, although we were there for that length of time, but due to having the stroller (it isn’t overly stroller friendly, Matt had to carry it up various steps throughout the course) we missed out one small section, therefore missing 4 stamps. Since Eden did collect all the stamps for the 30 & 60 minute course once we got to the end she handed her map in and they gave her a sheet of Okinawan themed stamps, so her day was made!
Shurijo Castle Park is laden with history and while not much of the original castle remains it has been beautifully restored and you get a real sense of how it once was. The Nanden building is lovely to walk through and contains an exhibition hall as well as beautiful fine arts from the royal era. There was a wealth of information in this room, unfortunately having 2 kids who wanted to keep moving we didn’t get a chance to read it all!
There are 3 world heritage sites on the premises; the Sonohyan-utaki Stone Gate; this is where the king would pray for a safe journey whenever he left the castle, the Tamaudun; a resting place for kings and their families within the 3 chambers of this tomb and lastly Shurijo Castle itself.
Since being home and having had a good read through the leaflets I realized we actually missed out on seeing a bit more than I had originally thought, so a another trip here is definitely on the cards for us, although next time we will put Clio in the backpack!