Shurijo Castle in the Bygone Days

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Situated atop a gentle hill in Shuri, Naha City, Shurijo Castle was surrounded by curving castle walls, and within these walls were numerous structures. The castle was the central administrative body of the Shuri Royal Government of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It flourished as the center of politics, diplomacy, and culture in the Kingdom, and it was also the royal residence of the king and his family.
Shurijo Castle was destroyed by fire three times during the Ryukyu Kingdom period, and the fourth time in World War II. Each time, the Castle was restored. In 1992, the Seiden of the Shurijo Castle was reconstructed, modeled after the Seiden rebuilt in 1715. It remained standing until the collapse of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The building was constructed with a unique, Ryukyuan style, bringing together influences from both Japan and China. Brilliantly colored in vermilion, it was known as the only “red castle” in all of Japan and was unlike any other.
Construction work continued even after the opening of the Shurijo Castle Park in 1992, restoring numerous structures and areas within the Castle, including Kyo-no Uchi, Shoin/Sasunoma, Kugani Udun, and others. With the February 2019 opening of the private living area of the royalty, known as Ouchibara, visitors were able to appreciate the overall layout of the castle grounds after 27 years since the opening of the Park.

Main facilities in the Bygone Days

  • 正殿


    The Seiden is the central building of the Shurijo Castle. It was a three-story wooden structure, and the king mainly conducted his political affairs and rituals at the Shichagui on the first floor. The second floor, known as Ufugui, was where the king, his family, and female attendants conducted ceremonies. The third floor was an attic made for ventilation.

  • 御庭


    Una was Various ceremonies and rituals took place at the Una throughout the year. There are rows of what is called the Sen (laid tiles), and the colors of these rows indicate where the officials were to stand during ceremonies, in order of rank.

  • 南殿・番所

    Nanden and Bandokoro

    Facing the building from the Una, to the right is the Bandokoro and to the left is the Nanden. The Bandokoro was generally a place where people were received when arriving at Shurijo Castle, and the Nanden was mainly used for Japanese-style ceremonies and as a reception for the Satsuma Domain.

  • 北殿


    This was the busiest building within Shurijo Castle, functioning as the central administrative building of the royal government, with many officials coming and going daily. It was also used as the venue to entertain the Sapposhi, or the investiture envoys sent by the Chinese Emperor. This was also where the welcome banquet for Commodore Perry was held upon his visit to Shurijo Castle.

  • 書院・鎖之間


    The king used the Shoin as his regular place of work, but at times, it was also used to entertain Sapposhi envoys as well as officials from the Satsuma Clan dispatched to Naha. The Sasunoma is said to have been a waiting area for the princes and was where officials in various posts were invited for informal gatherings.

  • 書院・鎖之間庭園

    Shoin and Sasunoma Garden

    The Sasunoma Garden is the only garden that existed within all of the Gusuku sites in Okinawa Prefecture, which is backed by historical evidence. Analysis and research began in 2002 through excavation surveys and illustrated records. It opened to the public in August 2008, after the completion of reconstruction work with great care and attention to detail. In July 2009, it was designated as one of the most beautiful landscapes within the country.

  • 近習詰所


    This structure was a passage that connected the outer (administrative) world and the Oku or the inner (living) quarters known as Ouchibara. It connected the Nanden and the second floor of the Kugani Udun, built with a room called Suzubiki. If some business required attention, a bell in the Suzubiki room would be rung, and an official would come to answer.

  • 奥書院


    This structure was used by the king to rest in between his official duties and has a garden on the south side. After its restoration in 2014, it offered a place for the visitors to enjoy a break and to appreciate the garden.

  • 奥書院庭園

    Okushoin Garden

    This was a private garden for the king to enjoy breaks in between his duties. During excavations, stalactites that were the main aspects of the garden were unearthed. Centering around this finding, rocks also unearthed within Shurijo Castle and those collected from around the prefecture were used in the restoration. The reconstruction of the garden was based on old maps and photos. It opened to the public upon completion in 2014.

  • 黄金御殿・左掖門

    Kugani-Udun, Saekimon

    Kugani-Udun was a private area for the king, queen, and the king’s mother. It was connected to the Seiden, Nike-Udun, and Kinju-Tsumesho on the second floor. The second floor of the building also had private quarters, a garden. On the first floor was the Saekimon passage (also known as Kurashin Ujo). It functioned as an exhibit space after restoration was completed and opened to the public in 2014

  • 寄満


    Meals for the king and the royal family were prepared in the Yuinchi, and on the east side of the building was an inner Chumon gate that led to the Ouchibara.

  • 二階御殿


    Nike-Udun was regularly used by the king. Built on uneven terrain, the structure had two floors on the north side and one floor on the south side. The interior on the second floor was designed like a Shoin drawing room, with a Tokonoma alcove and Chigaidana shelves.

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