Castle festival takes you back in time Oct.31-Nov. 3

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Okinawa

Okinawa has a rich tradition of culture and arts that originated by the Ryukyu Kingdom, which ruled most of the Ryukyuislands  from the 15th century to the 19th century.

You can see the essence of this tradition at Shuri Castle during its annual festival Oct. 31 through Nov. 3.   According to Tomoya Arakaki of Shurijo Castle Park, the festival contains elegant court and folk dances, reenactments of kingdom rituals and ceremonies, as well as parades and processions in traditional attire. In the evenings, the castle will be lit up beautifully by candlelight.

If you can only attend one day, Arakaki recommended trying to make it Saturday.

“Many events are packed into Saturday from morning to evening,” Arakaki said. “You can see the historical reenactment at noon in the garden, traditional performing arts on the stage in the afternoon, and finally you can wrap up the day with the mysterious light-up of the castle with candlelight in the evening.”

Shuri Castle is known as the home of Ryukyu Kingdom and it served as the administrative center and residence of Ryukyu kings for 450 years. After completely destroyed through the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, the castle was partially reconstructed as Shurijo Castle Park in 1992. This castle festival was initiated to celebrate the opening of the park, and has become an annual event as palatial building continues to be restored.

“This festival draws about 60,000 people every year, and widely considered as one of the most popular events on Okinawa,” Arakaki said. “We are proud of our own culture and traditions of Ryukyu Kingdom. “I hope you can come and appreciate them during the festival.”

For more information about Shurijo Castle Festival, call 098-886-2020.

takiguchi.takahiro@stripes.com

Shurijo (Shuri Castle) was the capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom for 450 years. The castle grounds measured roughly 1,350 feet east to west and about 900 feet north to south, and there were eight Chinese-style gates, such as Shureimon, Zuisenmon and Koshinmon.

Originally built in the 14th century, it has been destroyed in war or by fire three times. After being completely destroyed in World War II, it was rebuilt again in 1992. The castle was then designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 along with others in Okinawa, including Nakagusuku and Nakijingusuku castles.

The castle’s Shurei Gate, with its red-colored tiles and double-layered roof set in white lime, retains the unique beauty that once belong to the entire castle. Other attractions include its majestic square called “unaa” which is surrounded by Seiden (State Chamber), Nanden (South Chamber), Hokuden (North Chamber) and Koshinmon Gate, which was used for the enthronement of Ryukyu kings.

  • Built:  14th century
  • Getting there: 3 Shuri Tozo-cho, Naha City, Okinawa (15-minute walk from Shuri station of Yui-rail)
  • Website:  oki-park.jp.e.ms.hp.transer.com/shurijo/
  • Admission: 820 yen ($8.20); 620 yen for high school students, 310 yen for middle school and younger.
  • Hours: 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

Schedule of events

Traditional Performing arts
You can enjoy various elegant Ryukyu court and folk dances on the stage.
Time: Oct. 31, 10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.; Nov. 1- 2, 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
Location: On stage of Shimo-no-Oniwa (Castle’s lower garden)  

Reenactment of Chinese envoy’s title presentation to newly enthroned Ryukyu king
This is a historical reenactment of the kingdom’s most important event – presentation of the title of “Ryukyu King” to newly enthroned king. The Ryukyu King governed the island under the authority and the title given by Emperor of China. During this reenactment, you can see the Ryukyu King, officials and Chinese envoys in traditional attire in the castle, and Chinese envoys giving the title to the king in Majestic Square.
Time:  Nov. 1 1, 11:40 a.m. - 1:10 p.m.
Location: From Shureimon Gate to Majestic Square

Ryukyu Kingdom Parade
You can see approximately 700 people dressed up as king, queen, officials and Chinese envoys and parading along the main street of Naha City.
Time: Nov. 2, 12:30 - 2:30 p.m.
Location: Along the Kokusai-dori (International Street), Naha City

Shinryo-no-tomoshibi
(candlelight of all nations)

The Syurijo Castle is lit up by candlelight.
Time: Nov. 1-2, 5- 9 p.m.
Location: Shurijo Garden

Traditional New Year’s Procession of Ryukyu King
You can see a reenactment of Ryukyu king’s New Year visit to three temples to wish the year’s peace and good harvest.
Hours: Nov. 3, 12:50 - 3:30 p.m.
Location: From Shurijo garden to Ryutan Street

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