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The first floor of the Seiden is called Shichagui and was the area where the king conducted political affairs and ceremonies. Two pictures adorn the room and the pillars are beautifully painted with golden dragons and peony flowers.
The first floor of the Seiden is called Shichagui and was the area where the king conducted political affairs and ceremonies. Two pictures adorn the room and the pillars are beautifully painted with golden dragons and peony flowers. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
The first floor of the Seiden is called Shichagui and was the area where the king conducted political affairs and ceremonies. Two pictures adorn the room and the pillars are beautifully painted with golden dragons and peony flowers.
The first floor of the Seiden is called Shichagui and was the area where the king conducted political affairs and ceremonies. Two pictures adorn the room and the pillars are beautifully painted with golden dragons and peony flowers. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
The king's throne is ornately decorated and has 2 dragon sculptures on either side. The dragon sculptures (Ungyou, left, and Agyou, right) are also outside the Seiden and are 4.1 meters in height and made of sandstone from Yonaguni Island.
The king's throne is ornately decorated and has 2 dragon sculptures on either side. The dragon sculptures (Ungyou, left, and Agyou, right) are also outside the Seiden and are 4.1 meters in height and made of sandstone from Yonaguni Island. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
Shurijo Castle is surrounded by walkways that lead to gates which take visitors to different areas of the castle. The park is extremely popular with school children who come to the park as part of school tours to learn the history of the castle.
Shurijo Castle is surrounded by walkways that lead to gates which take visitors to different areas of the castle. The park is extremely popular with school children who come to the park as part of school tours to learn the history of the castle. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
A replica of the King's Crown which would have been worn during formal ceremonies. The displays note that the original crown would have been made out of silk crepe and been adorned with gold, silver, crystal, corals, jasper and glass.
A replica of the King's Crown which would have been worn during formal ceremonies. The displays note that the original crown would have been made out of silk crepe and been adorned with gold, silver, crystal, corals, jasper and glass. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
Some Japanese school children on a tour of the castle grounds stop for a quick photo under the Shureimon Gate, the main entrance to the Shurijo Castle Park.
Some Japanese school children on a tour of the castle grounds stop for a quick photo under the Shureimon Gate, the main entrance to the Shurijo Castle Park. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
The Shurijo Castle Seiden is intricately painted both inside and outside with golden dragons and peony flowers. The dragons symbolized the king, and many are in pairs of Agyou and Ungyou.
The Shurijo Castle Seiden is intricately painted both inside and outside with golden dragons and peony flowers. The dragons symbolized the king, and many are in pairs of Agyou and Ungyou. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
A pair of handmade Shisha dogs available for sale at the gift shop. They were about a foot high and just over $500.
A pair of handmade Shisha dogs available for sale at the gift shop. They were about a foot high and just over $500. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
Kankaimon Gate, the front gate of the Shurijo Castle, was burned down during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, but was restored in 1974.
Kankaimon Gate, the front gate of the Shurijo Castle, was burned down during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, but was restored in 1974. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
Zuisenmon Gate is named after the spring located in front of it. Zuisen means 'a splendid and auspicious spring.'
Zuisenmon Gate is named after the spring located in front of it. Zuisen means 'a splendid and auspicious spring.' (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
Bezaitendo Shrine and Enganchi Pond is where precious Buddhist scriptures received from the king of Korea were kept.
Bezaitendo Shrine and Enganchi Pond is where precious Buddhist scriptures received from the king of Korea were kept. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
The Shurijo Castle is located in the mountainous region above the city of Naha. The height provides a commanding view of the city and other surrounding areas.
The Shurijo Castle is located in the mountainous region above the city of Naha. The height provides a commanding view of the city and other surrounding areas. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
Some bonsai plants near the Tea Room. For 300 yen, visitors to the Shurijo Seiden Castle can be served Jasmine tea and Ryuku sweets.
Some bonsai plants near the Tea Room. For 300 yen, visitors to the Shurijo Seiden Castle can be served Jasmine tea and Ryuku sweets. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
Passport stamping stations are located throughout the grounds for kids to use and stamp their passports. It is a way for kids to get excited about seeing everything the Castle has to offer.
Passport stamping stations are located throughout the grounds for kids to use and stamp their passports. It is a way for kids to get excited about seeing everything the Castle has to offer. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
The Bridge of Nations Bell or Bankoku Shinryo-no Kane is a replica of a bell that was hung in 1458 in the Shurijo castle.
The Bridge of Nations Bell or Bankoku Shinryo-no Kane is a replica of a bell that was hung in 1458 in the Shurijo castle. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
Roukokumon Gate was named after the water clock in the gate's turret. Here, high ranking officials would get off their palanquins - platforms carried by men - out of respect for the king.
Roukokumon Gate was named after the water clock in the gate's turret. Here, high ranking officials would get off their palanquins - platforms carried by men - out of respect for the king. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
Part of the garden located outside the Tea Room. Shurijo Castle is the only castle on Okinawa to have a garden featuring Ryukuan limestone that enhances its beauty.
Part of the garden located outside the Tea Room. Shurijo Castle is the only castle on Okinawa to have a garden featuring Ryukuan limestone that enhances its beauty. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)
Shurijo Castle Seiden is a three-story wooden structure approximately 16 meters high with a total floor area of approximately 1,200 square meters. The king conducted his political affairs and ceremonies inside the building.
Shurijo Castle Seiden is a three-story wooden structure approximately 16 meters high with a total floor area of approximately 1,200 square meters. The king conducted his political affairs and ceremonies inside the building. (Matt Orr/Stars and Stripes)

Perched atop the hills overlooking Naha and with commanding views of its surroundings, Shurijo Castle Park should be on everyone’s list of places to visit on Okinawa.

I have to admit it was not on mine. In fact, I had not heard or seen anything about the castle until I began scouring Okinawa Web forums, desperately looking for something to write about.

To be honest, I have visited other castles on the island and they are a shell of their former glory.

But Shurijo Castle has been beautifully restored to what it would have looked like hundreds of years ago.

The wooden buildings inside the castle grounds are painted in a rich red, and carved dragons adorn the roofs of many of the buildings.

The castle, which dates back to the 14th century, served as the center of politics, culture and foreign diplomacy of the Ryuku kingdom for 500 years.

The last ruler of the Ryuku dynasty, King Sho Tasi, abdicated the throne to the Meiji government in 1879.

During the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, Shurijo Castle was destroyed but was restored in 1992 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan.

In December 2000, it was designated a World Heritage Site, the 11th such site in Japan.

Visitors can pay 800 yen to visit the inner grounds and buildings called the Seiden, which is where the king conducted his political affairs and held ceremonies. You can pay an additional 300 yen and be served jasmine tea in the Tea Rooms.

But if you don’t want to pay that extra money, the outer grounds are spectacular and beautifully landscaped. And most of the key structures around the grounds have signs in English letting visitors know historical facts.

To keep kids excited, they can pick up a passport-type booklet that they can have stamped at various stations placed around the castle’s grounds.

I stayed for about four hours walking around and could have easily stayed a couple more.

On the web: www.oki-park.jp.

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