Castle festivals take you back in time
Okinawa’s Ryukyu Kingdom ruled most of the Ryukyu Islands from the 15th to 19th centuries. You can experience the essence of that regal tradition at series of annual autumn festivities at Shurijo Castle.
For starters, don’t miss this year’s Ryukyu Dynasty Moon Viewing Festival Sept. 26 and 27.
Royal festivities reenact the Mid-Autumn Banquet that once welcomed visiting envoys from China. See classic and ensemble dances performed under the harvest moon. Period attired musicians are also on hand to entertain with traditional local instruments.
The moon-lit pageantry is sure to transport you back in time. But get there early. Expect long lines of spectators to be vying for the best seats (the left gate is said to have the best stage access).
Another affair, the Shurijo-sai festival, is actually a series of events that runs Oct. 31 through Nov. 3. The castle’s elegant court hosts folk dances, reenactments of kingdom rituals and processions – all featuring showcasing traditional attire.
In the evenings, the castle will be lit up beautifully by candlelight. The four-day event usually draws up to 60, 000 spectators, according to Shurijo Castle Park’s Tomoya Arakaki.
“Many events are packed into (Oct. 31) from morning to evening,” Arakaki said. “You can see the historical reenactment at noon in the garden, traditional performances on the stage in the afternoon, and wrap up the day with the mysterious candlelight illumination of the castle in the evening.”
Shurijo Castle was the administrative center and residence of Ryukyu kings for 450 years. Completely destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa, it was partially rebuilt as Shurijo Castle Park in 1992. This festival was initiated to celebrate the opening and has been an annual event ever since. The castle was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
All the events are free, however, park admission is 820 yen ($7) for adults; 620 yen for high school students and 310 yen for younger children.
The Royal Events
RYUKYU DYNASTY MOON VIEWING FESTIVAL: A reenactment of the Mid-Autumn Banquet held by the Ryukyu Dynasty to welcome envoys from China. Sept. 26 to 27, 6:30-9 p.m.
TRADITIONAL PERFORMANCES: Various elegant Ryukyu court and folk dances on the stage at the Castle’s lower garden. – Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 10 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.; Nov. 2, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
REENACTMENT OF CHINESE ENVOY’S TITLE PRESENTATION to newly enthroned Ryukyu king at Shureimon Gate the castle’s Majestic Square. – Oct. 31, 11:40 a.m.-1:10 p.m.
RYUKYU KINGDOM PARADE: 700 participant dressed in period attire, including king, queen, officials and Chinese envoys and parade along Naha City’s Along the Kokusai-dori Street. – Nov. 1, 12:30 -2:30 p.m.
SHINRYO-NO-TOMOSHIBI (candlelight of all nations): The castle is illuminated by candlelight and viewed from Shurijo Garden. – Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 5- 9 p.m.
SHURIJO MUSIC FESTIVAL: Different genres of music are performed on stage; various food and drinks are offered by vendors at Suimuikan Hall in Shurijo Garden. – Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 4-8 p.m.
NEW YEAR’S PROCESSION OF RYUKYU KING: A reenactment of Ryukyu king’s New Year visit to three temples from Shurijo Garden to Ryutan Street. Nov. 3, 12:50-3:30 p.m.
Address: 3 Shuri Tozo-cho, Naha City (near Shuri Station)