Okinawa, Japan Feb. 28 Wed 10:42AM
While one of the main draws of the beautiful island of Okinawa is its beaches and subtropical vacation feels, Okinawa also is a place rich with history and culture. Many people, while aware of some background of the island, aren't sure where to start when it comes to exploring. The usual beach and ocean activities are often a given, but Okinawa has so much more to explore beyond that. Not only are there many shops, activity centers, and restaurants, but there are cultural and historical landmarks that serve as a learning experience as well as something to do and see. Through these places, we can learn more about what makes Okinawa, Okinawa.
1. Nakagusuku Castle Ruins
The Nakagusuku Castle Ruins are arguably one of the more well known and best preserved castle ruins in Okinawa, yet it is still not relatively less visited than other historic castles throughout the entire country of Japan. Although the exact time in which it was built is unknown, the castle was built sometime during the Ryukyu Kingdom and therefore remains an important historical landmark of that time. The castle also once served as home to Lord Gosamaru, a famous Ryukyu lord.
2. Nakamura Family Residence
The Nakamura Family Residence is a historic traditional Okinawan house that dates back to the 18th century. The original family that lived here were considered wealthy farmers and is apparent in the structure of their residence. Today, this landmark is a designated cultural asset by the Japanese government.
3. Urasoe Castle Ruins
The Urasoe Castle Ruins were once a part of a Ryukyu Kingdom castle. The site of the castle ruins overlook the city of Naha and Ginowan, and makes for a spectacular sight on a clear day.
4. Katsuren Castle Ruins
Katsuren Castle Ruins is another castle site from the Ryukyu Kingdom. Sitting near the edge of a hill, the site not only is an important part of history, but also offers beautiful views of the ocean and cities below. The castle was once home to Lord Amawari and the site provides another glimpse into the history of Okinawa.
5. Minatogawa Stateside Town
This site is not exactly one specific spot but an entire town area with some historical significance. Minatogawa Stateside Town used to serve as a housing town for US military members before the area was reclaimed by the people of Okinawa. The houses were converted into various recreational buildings as well as stores and eateries and line streets names after US states. It's a neat place to check out and serves as a nice place to shop around, but it also provides a glimpse into Okinawa's more recent history.
6. Sefa Utaki
Sefa Utaki functioned as a religious site for rituals, prayers, and religious ceremonies for indigenous Okinawan religions. In the past only women were allowed to enter, and the King would have to also dress as a woman before entering the sacred site. Upon entering the site, visitors are greeted by a large natural rock wall with a shallow stone staircase. The site may not appear like traditional temples and shrines of Japan that people are often used to seeing, but is beautiful and a sacred site nonetheless.
7. Shikinaen Garden
For those who enjoy the look of Japanese gardens, this is also an interesting place to check out. The Shikinaen Garden is the garden space of the second palace residence of the Ryukyu kings. With native Okinawan architectural designs as well as flora, the garden is a beautiful blend of traditional conventional Japanese style with Okinawan style.