Before and After WWII
Shuri (above) restored; Shuri before WWII (below)
After six years of planning and hard work, Shuri Castle reopened to the public in November
of 1992. The "new" castle sweeps you back in time to the days of feudal warlords, emperors and
warriors. Each building was painstakingly reconstructed to look as close to the original as
possible. Although the original castle site was much larger, the land available for today's Shuri
Castle gives you a good idea of how life was like many hundreds of years ago.
The original layout of Shuri,
shortly after WWII
Shuri Castle is believed to have been built by King Satto at the end of the 14th century. The
original Shuri Castle stood on a hill (130 meters above sea level) called Shuri Tonokura in Naha.
This was the largest castle in Okinawa and measured 400 meters long from east to west, 270
meters long from north to south and 46,167 square kilometers in area. The castle was the
headquarters of the Sho dynasty for 450 years -- from 1492 (when three kingdoms were unified
on Okinawa) through 1879. Commodore Matthew Perry signed the Treaty of Peace and Amity at
Shuri Castle in 1854.
The remains of Shuri after the war
Shuri Castle was designated a national treasure of Japan in 1928, then was totally destroyed
during WWII. In 1950 the University of the Ryukyus was built on the site and used by them for
32 years until they relocated to a new site in south central Okinawa in 1982. The site was then
designated Shuri District of National Okinawa Memorial Park, and the castle was restored and
reopened to the public in November of 1992.
There are three courts inside of Shuri Castle that are separated by walls. The front court was
where king coronation ceremonies were held by Chinese officials. On both sides of the front
court sit two buildings. The one to the south was used for receiving official lookouts from the
Satsuma clan and Japanese officials as well as for Japanese ceremonies. The building to the north
was used to entertain envoys sent from China.
The main castle building is built of wood in a mixture of Ryukyuan, Japanese and Chinese styles
and looks like a two-story building when it actually houses three stories. The main hall has what
is called a "hip" roof made in the irimoya style with red tiles and a Chinese gable roof adorning
its main entrance. Ceremonial functions held by Chinese envoys were held in the court of the
This was built as the second of three principal gates of the main access to Shuri Castle and
has become a symbol of Okinawa, seen on many postcards. The main gate, "Kankai mon," stands
at the end of the access, which leads to the main palace via a stone pavement path. The letters in
the frame of the gate (giving the gate its name) have been changed three times over the years,
"Taiken," "Shuri," and "Shurei."
Although Shurei Gate was designated a national treasure in 1929, it was destroyed during WWII.
The faithful replica of the gate was built in October of 1958 from original plans kept by Mr.
Mori, a technical official working at the Ministry of Education. The gate was then designated a
cultural property of the Okinawan Prefecture in 1972.
HOURS: From December-February 9:00-5:30, gates close at 5:00 p.m., from March-November
9:00-6:00, gates close at 5:30 p.m.
FEES: Adults ¥800, High school students ¥600, Jr. high/elementary students ¥300, Under six
years of age are admitted free of charge.
DIRECTIONS: From Kadena Air Force Base, go South on Highway 58. You'll see signs for
Shuri Castle Park in English every 10 meters or so. Follow the signs to the park and there should
be signs for the parking area.