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Okinawa's 100 Famous Castles August 2023


I think there are many people who collect stamps from the 100 Famous Castles tour. I think I've visited about half of them so far, but I've only recently started stamping, and I'm enjoying every opportunity to do so.

I wanted to go to Okinawa on a family trip and went to a resort hotel to relax, but in reality I was quite busy driving around in a rental car and visited three of the 100 famous castles (Shuri Castle, Nakijin Castle, Nakagusuku Castle), and 2 of the second-series 100 famous castles(Zakimi Castle and Katsuren Castle). After all we visited a total of 6 castles including Urasoe Castle.

I had an image of a peaceful island, but there are many castles (gusuku) carved out of limestone (formerly coral reefs) all over the island. It is a rock that is easy to work with, and the stone walls have unique curved shapes and colors that stand out well against the colors of Okinawa's sea and sky.

I have not learned much about Okinawa history until then, but I have focused on three milestones: the unification of the 3 nations by Sho Hashi (1416), the invasion of Satsuma (1609), and the disposal of the Ryukyus (1871).


① Nakijin Castle

It is said to have been the residence of the King of Kitayama, and was built between the 12th and 13th centuries. It is one of the largest castles in Okinawa (37,000 m3) and is about 70% of the largest Shuri Castle. Sho Hashi succeeded in unifying the Ryukyu(Okinawa) by capturing the castle, but he probably had such national power and the ability to manipulate the troops skillfully.

It appears that during the reign of Hongwu Emperor (reigned 1368-1398), the founder of the Ming dynasty, there was written information about the Kitayama's tribute and castle. In China and Korea, new dynasties called Ming and Yi Dynasty were born, and in Japan, the unification of the Northern and Southern Dynasties was finally completed, and in the 15th century, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga was in the era of trade between Japan and Ming, and in the Ming Dynasty, the Great Expedition of Zheng He by the Yongle Emperor began.

Among the new dynasties and new systems, trade became active in the seas of East Asia, and would it be possible to interpret that unification projects were carried out in Okinawa in order to jump on the bandwagon.

Even after unification, the castle was used as a base for governing northern Okinawa, but it was the first target of attack during the Satsuma invasion.





② Zakimi Castle

It was one of the fiercest battlegrounds during the Pacific War, and was destroyed by the US military because it had an anti-aircraft gun base for the Japanese army, but after the war it became the US military's Nike base. It was returned in 1974 and excavation and maintenance progressed.







③ Nakagusuku Castle

The hero of Okinawa's unification history is Gosamaru, who has the lineage of King Kitayama, and when you go to the area, you can see the mascot character Gosamaru everywhere. Following Shohashi, he captured Nakijin Castle, built Zakimi Castle and Nakagusuku Castle, and contributed to the stability of the governance of the Kitayama area after unification, but he committed suicide there due to the slander of his rival Amawari. It is said that Perry visited this area in 1853 and was impressed by the high level of construction technology. The arch gate is wonderful.



④ Katsuren Castle

Amawari is the one mentioned above who killed the ruthless Anji Mochizuki and took over the castle, but in the adjacent museum called “Amawari Park”, the hero is not Gosamaru, instead, it was all about “Amawari.”

The castle stands on a hill, and there was an electric cart shuttle service at the base that would take you halfway up the hill. It seems that this place also prospered as a trading port, and was so prosperous that it was described as ``like Yamato or Kamakura'' in a poetry collection called ``Omorosaushi'' compiled by the Ryukyu Dynasty.

After destroying Gosamaru, Amawari tried to use his forces to defeat King Sho Yasuhisa and become the king of the Ryukyu, but in the end he was defeated. The people of Katsuren probably think that Katsuren Castle might have been actually the capital castle.


⑤ Urasoe Castle

It is said that it was originally the castle of the Chuzan King Shun Tenno, who has a legend about Tametomo Minamoto. He is a hero who was banished to Izu Oshima after the Hogen Rebellion in the 12th century, and went on a rampage in the penal colony, but then escaped to Okinawa, married Osato Aji's sister, and was given the title of Shunten. Although it should not be compared with Yoshitsune's theory of Genghis Khan, it can be said to be a theory that cannot be ignored since it is included in the official history of the Ryukyu Dynasty (Nakayama Seifu). It's ridiculous, and opinions seem to be divided between those who deny the pressure from Satsuma and those who deny it, as well as stories that existed before the invasion of Satsuma. Scientifically, DNA analysis shows that the human bones found at the ruins on Miyakojima are 100% Jomon people(original Japanese), and there is a theory that people first settled in Okinawa for farming purposes after the 10th century, when they migrated from the mainland. Therefore, I think it is correct to assume that at least human traffic and migration with the mainland continued for thousands of years. Japan is a volcanic country with high acidity, and it is said that relics of the past dissolve easily and are difficult to remain. However, we are now in an era where legends and science work together to unravel the past, without being bound by stereotypes.


⑥ Shuri Castle

Now, it's Shuri Castle. The fire in 2019 was truly unfortunate. Many relics were destroyed and treasures were plundered during the fierce fighting during the Battle of Okinawa, but the Seiden (main palace) that was burnt down this time was a structure that was finally restored in 1992 after being destroyed in the WWⅡ. It is said to be a reproduction of the one that burned down and was rebuilt in 1709, but even back then there was a shortage of wood, so the Satsuma domain apparently procured 20,000 trees. Our country must rebuild with its prestige on the line.

It was under construction this time, but it looks like it will be revived in 2026. I'm looking forward to it.




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