VIDEO | Stroll flagstone road near Shuri Castle in Okinawa

Photo by Shoji Kudaka
Photo by Shoji Kudaka

VIDEO | Stroll flagstone road near Shuri Castle in Okinawa

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

While Shuri Castle brings back the heyday of the Ryukyu Kingdom with colorful buildings and gorgeous artifacts, there are some neighboring areas that show scenes from the past in a subtle way.

Kinjo-cho Ishidatami Michi (stone-paved road) runs on a downslope on the southwest side of the castle. Although stone-paved roads are common in Okinawa, this one gets a lot of media coverage due to its vantage point and stunning views.

The north end of the road is a 10-minute walk from Shuri Castle. It starts with a straight stretch that goes through a tunnel of trees before winding downslope with moderate curves. According to Naha City Tourism data, the road is about 300 meters long, with an average width of four meters.

The road paved with Ryukyu Sekkaigan (limestones) draws a beautiful geometry with small green plants popping between the stones, creating a clear contrast with the dark color of the stones. When the stones are wet, the contrast becomes even clearer.

Here and there, the road branches into smaller streets, which lead to curious spots. One of them is a large tree called “Akagi” or Bischofia javanica. A description posted nearby notes that the tree is about 20 meters high and believed to be 200 years old. Another description notes that around 340 years ago, locals felt a remarkable aura in a forest in the area. They asked the government of Ryukyu Kingdom to install a place of worship where people can interact with gods. The tree remains at the sacred site.

There are also water channels and wells along some of the streets, which are thought to be historical sites as well. Walking on the small winding streets between local residences often feels like going in a labyrinth. At locations where such streets connect to each other, there are Ishigantou stone slabs, which are thought to fend off evil spirits.

When they get a little tired after going on the steep slope or intricate streets, visitors can take a break at a rest area with public restrooms made to look like a traditional Okinawa-style house. There are also restaurants and cafes for a quick bite along the way.

Compared to Shuri Castle, the stone-paved road may not draw as many tourists, but the secluded location has historical significance that may be of interest to history buffs.

According to the Naha City Tourism database, the construction of the road began in 1522 as part of Madama Michi, a road which used to run from Shuri Castle to then-Naha port. Shuri Castle’s website notes that the port was in Sumiyoshi-cho, which is now a part of Naha Military Port. Against the backdrop of increasing threats of pirates, the road was intended to be used to mobilize military forces to defend the port.

Though much has changed in the area, the stone-paved road near the castle has survived the test of time, still providing picturesque vistas of old Okinawa and a glimpse into the kingdom’s strategic infrastructure for defense.

 

How to get there
GPS Coordinates: N 26.217130,  E 127.716753 (North-end)
* Paid parking available near Shuri Castle

 

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