A view of the town and port of Naha from the upper level of the west side lookout (IRI-NO-AZANA) of the reconstructed Shurijo Castle located in the hills of Naha, Okinawa, Japan
Sailing up to Japan from Melanesia and Micronesia, our first port was the western group of Islands that now are part of Japan – Okinawa. These islands, annexed by Japan in the 19th century, were an independent dynasty for centuries, known as the Ryukyu Islands, with a rich culture and long history of textiles and other crafts, particularly on the largest island of the group, Okinawa.
Okinawa Island is to Japan what Hawaii is to the United States. The tropical island is surrounded by calm waters, thanks to the protective coastal reefs. Naha, the island’s capital and former seat of the Ryukyu kings, is home to the restored Shurijo Castle. After centuries of wars and fires, visitors can once again admire Seiden, the castle’s main hall, and Shikinaen Garden, formerly the Ryukyu kings’ second residence. Kokusaidori, Naha’s main street, pulsates late into the night with bars, cafes, restaurants, department stores, boutiques and hotels. The city is quite spread out, with mostly low rise, unattractive concrete buildings in the built-up areas, supporting a population of approximately 325,000.
The reconstructed Ryukyu kings’ second residence at Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, originally built at the end of the 18th century
Originally constructed in the 18th century for a member of Ryukyu royalty, Shikinaen Royal Garden – a UNESCO World Heritage Site — features classic Japanese and Chinese gardens. Stone bridges lead to elegant pavilions and refl ecting ponds, all painstakingly rebuilt following their destruction during World War II.
A small island gazebo – a hexaganol Chinese-style building (ROKKAYU-DO) — in the pond in front of the residence that is part of the Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; the property was used by the Ryukyu kings to entertain royal family members and foreign guests
A classical Japanese arch footbridge on the pond at Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; the circular landscape garden design at Shikinaen became very popular among Japanese feudal lords (Daimyo) during the modern ages
Beautiful roof tiles on the guard house (BANYA) at the entrance to the Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan
The Shureimon gate is the lowest (and first) gate into Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; the castle served as the proud and dignified center of the Ryukyu Kingdom and its politics, foreign affairs and culture
Originally built in the 14th century, the hilltop Shurijo Castle was the heart and soul of the Ryukyu Kingdom until the 19th century. Completely destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, the castle was later reconstructed to exacting standards and named an UNESCO World Heritage Site for symbolizing the pride of the Ryukyu people.
These castle buildings (all reconstructed in 1992 following the castles destruction in the battle of Okinawa in 1945) served as offices for the King’s retainer and government officials, Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan
The Seiden was the center of Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, and was the King’s residence; this restored building was completed in 1992 in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the return of Okinawa by the United States to Japanese sovereignty
Details of the front entrance to the Seiden at Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; the Seiden is decorated with a variety of carved art (including a golden dragon), two great dragon pillar sculptures and beautifully painted wooden columns
One of the interior guards in traditional dress in the reconstructed Seiden (the main King’s residence), Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan
This splendidly decorated area in the Seiden (called the Usasuka) is where the king presided over the political and ceremonial activities in Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan
This king’s seat is restored from pictures and references of the seat used by King Sho Shin, who ruled from 1477 to 1526, Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan
A view of the castle from a window in a room near the Usasuka where the king conducted business, Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan