Ryukyu King and Queen 2020

The royal couple appears to the public
The royal couple appears to the public

Ryukyu King and Queen 2020

by Sherilyn Siy

The grandeur and romance of the Ryukyu Kingdom is best celebrated in the once a year Shurijo Castle Festival sometime late October to early November.

Shurijo is the symbol of Okinawa. The original castle dates back to the 14th century and was home to the monarchs of the Ryukyu Kingdom, a period of 450 years before Okinawa became part of Japan in 1879. The castle and its ruins were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Unfortnately, in 2019, six wooden buildings within the 4,000 square meter area were destroyed in a fire believed to be caused by an electrical fault. A year later, restoration work is still underway and is slated to be finished by 2026. This huge blow, as well as the raging Covid-19 pandemic however, did not deter the locals from pushing through with the yearly festival, albeit in a more subdued tone.

The royal couple present themselves closer to the crowd.

The festival committee put out a call to the locals for the king and queen of the year. The king must be at least 170 cm tall and the queen 160 cm tall and with long hair (to sculp into the hairstyle consistent with that period). The winning candidates will receive cash prizes and are required to participate in the festival's special events.

The appearance of the 2020 Ryukyu king and queen was truly a spectacular sight. The royals for the year, along with their Chinese envoys, were dressed in the traditional garb of this elegant period. And, as only possible with a reenactment, they walked through so close to the crowd that anyone who wanted to take good photos can do so.

Aside from this public appearance, the castle grounds hosted a variety of performances including shishimai (lion dances) and hatagashira gaaee (banner performances).

Getting there

Shurijo Castle Park is about a 15 minute uphill walk from Shuri Station (Yu Rail). Alternatively, there's a city bus you can take at Shuri Ekimae Bus Stop. Get off at Shurijo Mae Bus Stop and the Shureimon is a minute's walk away.

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