Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Shuri-jo Castle

I've been a little slow in getting some Shuri Castle pictures posted, but here they are! Shuri Castle is in Naha, the capital of Okinawa. No one knows when the first Shuri Castle was built, but it's been destroyed and rebuilt several times--at least three times due to fire and once due to earthquake. The current Shuri Castle was built after the last one was burned to the ground in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, and they made an effort to build the new castle as closely as possible to the older one, using pictures and paintings as reference.

This first picture is taken in the main courtyard of the castle. The doors in the middle open, and up on the second floor is where the king's throne is and where he would sit during important ceremonies. If you think that this looks kind of Chinese, you're not wrong--for centuries, the Ryukyu Islands were a separate kingdom and Naha was its capital. The Ryukyu Kingdom had close ties to China for most of that time, and they sent tributes to the Chinese emperors and traded extensively with them. They were kind of a client-state like Tibet, but Okinawa *wanted* to be a client-state of China, unlike Tibet. Anyway, that's why a lot of Okinawan art and architecture is heavily influenced by the Chinese, and not as much Japanese as you might expect. Do I sound like the History Channel yet? ;)

There are shi-shi dogs (aka shisa) flanking the two dragon pillars. Here's a picture of a female shisa with a baby. Drive anywhere on Okinawa and you'll notice statues of various sizes on rooftops or on either side of doorways, and those are shisa. The one on the left is female, and the one on the right is male. They're meant as good luck. The female usually has a baby with her, and her mouth is closed to keep good spirits inside the building they guard. The male has his mouth open to scare away evil spirits. Anyway, the following picture was one of my attempts to be all artsy and make the shot more interesting than just having the shisa in the center...I think Lee figures I just didn't line it up right, :p

Here's a picture inside the castle, in the living quarters. Lee says this is what he'd imagined when we found out we were moving to Okinawa--the sliding door panels in the walls with the rice paper, and the tatami mats on the floor with no furniture. Guess I'm not the only one who'd watched Karate Kid II too many times :) Really, most of the buildings here aren't all that pretty as they're all concrete blocks of various shapes to withstand the typhoons that come every year (we haven't been through one yet, but I bet we will before the year is over). When you go inside the building, they'll make you take your shoes off to tour the inside of the castle. It's a sign of respect...and I can see why they'd make you take your shoes off in Japanese houses, considering you spend so much time sitting on the floor and sometimes sleeping there too. Who knows what your shoes have been through? And those tatami mats are pretty expensive from what I understand.

This is the gateway where you exit the castle grounds. Pretty neat looking, huh?

So there's a quick overview of Shuri-jo Castle. Tomorrow I'll post pictures from Shikina-en, which was the royal family's summer home and garden.


CCsMom said...

Cool! No, I never made it there. Really should have. I am glad you two are making the effort to see more of the local sights -- so much rich history. Glad you had a good time. Love ya -- Mom

Joan said...

Wonderful pictures...thanks for sharing. Joan

Jen Hoover said...

I've just recently been reading your blog :)

Lovin' the photography!! I'd be interested in seeing what you come up with after the "photography lessons" if you went back to the Shuri Castle!

Jen -an SCS chick ;)