DAY EIGHT OKINAWA: Thursday September 12, 2013
Although I was still a bit under the weather, I grabbed some coffee and got in the car to see the Shurijo Castle. When we arrived, this map was posted on the wall and I suddenly realized that I was completely turned around in my thinking. I was under the impression that we headed south to go to the Aquarium and Ie Island, but actually we were heading north. Ie island is actually the larger side island in the upper left corner of the map. So I took a picture of the map in order to share that knowledge with you. The airport is in the lower left corner in a city called Naha.
Then it was on to the castle park. There was a stamp collection map as well that went along with the tour of the grounds. We got most of the stamps (I think we missed three) so there were many interesting sights to take in. Much of this castle was actually leveled during World War II, but has been rebuilt and restored as close to accuracy as possible in order to preserve the cultural history of the Kingdom of Ryukyu Islands.
This area was the exterior of the main castle area. In this area is were trading and exchange often occurred. You would have to officially register at the gate just out of frame to the left.
From the registration gate there is a clear view of the land and ocean port that would fall under this castles realm. The middle picture is the sundial "used to mark high noon as well as the hours before and after noon. A water clock was used to tell the more precise time" (Castle Tour Plaque). Interestingly the sundial's time is actually 30 minutes behind standard time in Japan. The last picture is Seiden Bell hung in 1458. It was a symbol of the spirit of trade and hospitality. This bell is famous for the intricate inscriptions on it (brochure).
Unfortunately while we were there the main castle gate into the inner castle interior was undergoing some restoration work.
This is a picture of the main palace of the King of Ryukyu. This was "the royal seat of the Ryukyu Kingdom for approximately 500 years" (brochure). Some particular items to notice are the dragons at the main peaks of the building and the dragon pillars on either side of the entrance. The floor area is lined for ceremony and rank. Down in the corner is the modern tourist trap addition.
The next area on the tour was a no photo section where we had to remove our shoes. This area had several of the elevated wooden floored rooms lined with mats and paper thin walls that are often depicted in media. There are traditional tea rooms in this area and was mainly an area for servants or lower class nobles.
The next few pictures are from the interior of the King's quarters and throne rooms. The first picture is the remains of the actual castle foundation. According to the plaque, "the castle was destroyed four times because of fires and the battle of Okinawa during World War II" (Tour Plaque). They build the restored castle elevated above these ruins in order to preserve them. The next picture is the main entrance to the Kings throne room on the second level. The last is a picture of what the restorers believe the throne room looked like.
This next picture is a display model that is built to scale to show the ways in which the castle was used for ceremony.
Something that caught attention was found towards the end of the interior tour. The G8 leaders actually met and dined within the walls of this castle in the 90's. In attendance was then President Bill Clinton.
Within the castle there was a conduit system that was an important water source for the castle. It was a series of drainage pools that continue to run downhill as they overflowed through a system of directed rock ditches as pictured on the left. On the right is a fascinating tree that can only be accurately described as it is on the plaque beside it: "the Akagi is an evergreen broadleafed tree of the 'Todaigusa' family. Before the last was , its branches, some as thick as one meter in diameter, stretched towards the castle wall providing cool shade for a wide. Unfortunately, this tree was damaged during war leaving only its withered trunk which was later ravaged by a typhoon. Today , an Akou tree (Mulberry family) has attached itself to the remaining trunk, barely giving us some idea of the tree's former splendor" (Tour Plaque).
The "Odo" pictured next was built to house a gift from the Korean King in the late 15th century (brochure).
After finishing off a good sweat at the castle it was back in the car to head for lunch. We ended up at the Naha Treehouse Restaurant. Hard to miss this massive restaurant nestled between a car rental facility and a small business plaza. It looks impressive but once inside it is quite standard for appearance (the treehouse is mainly just the facade and in the elevator). Now you can eat on the terrace, but today was not the day for that. This establishment is evidently known for it's Shabu-Shabu. This interesting dish is depicted below (along with the how to guide). We also were seated in the Japanese style section, though this was not fully typical as it was more of a pit with a table and not a table at floor level.
Then is was back in the car, where I promptly fell asleep. After dropping off some of our party at the house, I continued on with one of our hosts, back to the Hamby department store. There I picked up some cold medicine (through a series of gestures and pointing) and a few odds and ends that I wanted to get, including shade gloves (to protect your forearms, mainly while driving, from sun). I also stopped by the bakery to pick up this lovely confection I had tried on the previous visit. I do not know what it is called, but I call it french toast bread and it is heavenly!
Well I have taken my medicine, updated my blog, and now I must to bed as I am sure tomorrow will be yet another full day! It is just coming on morning in Kansas..... Have a good Thursday Kansas!