Built in the late fourteenth century (the exact date of the construction is unknown), the Shuri Castle is located in the city of Naha, capital of Okinawa (Shuri is the former name of Naha). It was the residence of the royal family of the Ryukyu from 1429 (date of the unification of the kingdom by King Sho Hashi) to 1879. The castle was destroyed by fire four times in 1453, 1660, 1709 and 1945 and was always rebuilt. The version we see today dates from 1992.
The overall structure of the castle is huge. The main structure is located inside the walls. It includes the main square where the throne building is located. This site is composed of 3 zones: the Seiden, the Nanden/Bandokoro and the Hokuden. Around the fortification, you will find the Shureimon gate, Kankaimon gate, a temple, a pond, and many other structures. If you have time, the tourist information center near the Shureimon gate offers a challenge to all visitors, young and old. Indeed, with the help of the map (available all around the castle) you will go hunting stamps during your visit to the castle. There are 27 stamps to collect throughout the castle park. And if you manage to get them all, you can win a small Shuri Castle memory kit with stickers, a small children's book and laminated pouches of Shuri Castle.
The main stamps are inside the castle buildings in the Seiden, Nanden, Bandokoro and Hokuden. Indeed, the Seiden is the main palace, it faces the entrance on the main square. It consists of 3 floors with 2 roof levels, decorated with dragon-shaped columns that is a feature of the architecture of Ryukyu. The dragon is the symbol of the king, that is why dragons carved in stone and wood carvings are decorated around this palace. The Seiden version we see today is a replica of the one from 1712 that was destroyed by the 1945 bombing It is obviously in the Seiden palace where is the throne, Usasuka. The Hokuden is the north building of the castle. This palace is an administrative building, this is where the ministers were working (Omote Jugonin Shu) and officials (and Hissha satunushi). The Hokuden also used to receive the Chinese guests for the induction ceremony. It was a formality by which the kings were crowned on behalf of the Chinese emperor.
If you go to Okinawa, don't hesitate to visit the Shuri Castle. It's a beautiful site full of stories. Admission is 800 yen but if you take a one-day pass for the Yui monorail, you get a small discount. In addition, you can attend a free small show of traditional dances of Okinawa (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.).