Castle Ruins & World Heritage Sites (Katsuren, Yaese, Gushikawa & Sefa Utaki)

This past September we hit our one year Japaniversary, I still can’t believe a year has past already and I have been panicking that we won’t be able to cross everything off our ever-growing Okinawa Bucket List. Refreshed from our amazing Hong Kong vacation we have been busy filling our weekends with adventures, when we are not suffering from tummy bugs or stuck inside due to typhoons that is.

There seemed to be a common theme to our recent adventures…ruins & world heritage sites! For such a small island I am constantly amazed by how many ruins there are; some more intact than others, all interesting in their own right.

One day in an effort to find a local ‘beach party’ hosted by a few pubs & eateries we ended up at Katsuren castle deciding to skip the beach party (although quite surprisingly we found where it was located) since we forgot our beach stuff and felt a little uncomfortable being the only non-Japanese folk there.

Katsuren

Katsuren

Even though we didn’t make it to the beach party we really enjoyed our visit to Katsuren Castle; a UNESCO World Heritage Site built upon limestone sometime in the 13th-14th and century offers superb views of the Pacific Ocean, especially if you visit on a glorious day like we had. It was quite an impressive place before the Ryukyu King destroyed it when the lord thought he should be king rather then the current one. Before that time the area was known for it’s trading and the people of the area prospered greatly from their lord.

Katsuren castle

Katsuren castle

Part of the way up you have to climb some steep slippery stairs so be warned you should wear sensible footwear and that you may have to help younger kiddies; Eden walked the whole way but at times I needed to help steady her.

the girls exploring Katsuren Castle

the girls exploring Katsuren Castle

The following weekend we decided to venture South to check out Cape Kyan and Gushikawa ruins. Unfortunately by the time we made it to the ruins we were all pretty hungry so we skipped the cape in favor of food. We will just have to head back to Cape Kyan another time, although we were virtually there. Gushikawa Ruins are pretty unimpressive compared to Katsuren, Nakagusuku or even Zakimi.

Gushikawa Ruins

Gushikawa Ruins

What was neat about visiting Gushikawa was the fact that the winds were stronger that day and we were all mesmerized by the crashing ocean waves beneath us. Matt thought it would be a good idea for us all to climb down the rocks and check out the rock pools below. Leslie & I decided we didnt want to take the 3 littles down there so he went on his own. I guess it was a good thing we didnt bring the kiddies! At one point Matt thought he was going to be taken out by a wave crashing into a cave.

views of the Pacific from Gushikawa Ruins

views of the Pacific from Gushikawa Ruins

We followed this by lunch at a not very pleasant Japanese buffet place. After our ‘delicious’ lunch we decided to swing by one more set of ruins and would make the call to get out or not if the kids were awake. They were awake. Instead of parking in the parking lot our GPS led us to the back of the ruins where I guess a baseball team were having practice. We got a few stares, smiles & warm greetings; I don’t think this area is visited by too many westerners.

Gushikawa Ruins, bottom photo is where Matt climbed down to look at the rock pools

Gushikawa Ruins, bottom photo is where Matt climbed down to look at the rock pools

We found Yaese ruins but didn’t bother walking close to them for fear of what may be living in the overgrown grass. There was also a cute little park, sadly it hasn’t been looked after and again we decided to stay away because of the overgrowth. All in all the heat of the day had also taken it’s toll on all of us and the enthusiasm that we started with was no longer there. After returning to the car we all decided it might be for the best if we headed back home and not five minutes into the drive the girls were all asleep. Halleujah!

Yaese Ruins

Yaese Ruins

Our last weekend exploring saw us visit the World Heritage Sefa Utaki; a scared place since the earliest period of Okinawan history. It was yet another hot day and the car park was quite a walk to the site, at first we thought we could park close to the site but an old man with a high vis vest on stopped us and told us we must park in another place. The walk was actually kind of neat because many of the homes on the road to the site have been turned into businesses which we all decided would be a great place to hit up on the way back for a nice cold drink.

Sefa Utaki

Sefa Utaki

Once we arrived at the site we were ushered into a small room which already had a video playing with english subtitles. It spoke of the history of the Sefa Utaki and how it is one of the most sacred places on Okinawa and provided some key information on what to do and not to do. After the video ended we made our way through the building and back into the heat of the sun.

Eden at Sefa Utaki

Eden at Sefa Utaki

Luckily the sun was hidden as we entered a lush forest and climbed up the trail to get to Sefa Utaki. The trail at times was quite treacherous since it was about as old as the Sefa Utaki itself. We all managed to get up the hill and then as we approached the Sefa Utaki it leveled out and it was quite relaxing since it seemed to be about thirty degrees cooler under the cover.

notice Matt taking a selfie

notice Matt taking a selfie

The actual area considered Sefa Utaki is very interesting with the placement of two rocks to form a triangular tunnel and where the locals had set up an alter was right under a stalactite so as water runs down the stalactite and drips down into a cup on the alter. Also the area has a lot of different plant life going on. Matt was trying to teach Eden the different names of the plants that he knew, to which Eden replied “Or you can just call them plants.” Matt then turns to me and shakes his head in what may have been some frustration.

rare family photo, Sefa Utaki

rare family photo, Sefa Utaki

On the way back we decided to stop at one of the homes turned business for some slushies so we could all cool off and Matt could take a break from his shoulder ride he was giving Eden. Slightly cooled of we continued to walk a little further to find somewhere to stop for lunch. We lucked out because it had the most amazing views and the food was pretty decent too!

I think I have had my dose of ruins for a while although there are plenty more to see and I do plan on seeing them all or at least as many as we can find once a few weeks have passed!

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One response to “Castle Ruins & World Heritage Sites (Katsuren, Yaese, Gushikawa & Sefa Utaki)

  1. Pingback: 9 UNESCO Properties in Okinawa | FUN FLYING FOUR·

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