Comfort Hotel Naha Prefectural Office
Phone: (81) 98 941 7311
Fax: (81) 98 941 7312
This historical World Heritage site has been at the top of a hill surveying the west coast of Okinawa since the 15th Century. The castle was built by a venerated chieftain of the area, Gosamaru, who tore down his old castle and reused the stones to build Zakimi-jo. Next to the site is an informational museum on the castle's history and about other historical Okinawan artifacts.
Built in 1368, the Gokoku Temple grounds also contain the Bettelheim Monument, the Kozakura Monument, and the Naminoue Shrine. Originally built to propagate Shingonshu Buddhism, it was used for foreign reception by the Tokugawa Shogunate, and also as a residence of the British missionary, Bettelheim. The Kozakura Monument honors the 700 children who died when an evacuation ship was bombed during World War II.
As the Ryuku nation's palace, Shurijo Castle was the economic, religious and administrative epicenter of the chain of islands now known as Okinawa. Once bound to pay tribute to China and Japan while also doing trade with Southeast Asia, the influences of all these cultures can be seen in the architecture, decor, and most of all the blazingly red walls of the castle. Since being built in the 1400s, Shurijo has served as a royal residence, a Japanese military base, and as a school. It is the only Okinawan castle to be completely restored to its 18th Century state after being bombed during World War II, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site easily accessed by monorail or bus. Traditional Ryukyuan dances are performed in the main courtyard three times daily. See the website for more details.
Near Shurijo, Shikina-En Garden served as a second home to the Shuri kings as well as the reception area for Chinese envoys. Completed in 1799, the area is also a World Heritage Site. The garden is closed on Wednesdays, and closes half an hour earlier October through March.
The Ryukyu Kingdom takes much of its cultural heritage from China, and as such, Fukushuku-En Park was completed in 1992 to honor sister city relations with Fuzhou City. Traditional Chinese pagodas and tea pavilions are located throughout the park, making for a lovely and scenic day out. Visitors can also buy fish food from the vending machines to feed the fish in the ponds. The park is closed on Wednesdays.
Located on the first floor of a distillery in Itoman City, awamori (alcohol distilled from Thai rice) connoisseurs will enjoy seeing how this Okinawan spirit is made. The first floor is a shop where visitors can taste and buy the various kinds of awamori, while the second floor displays the historic and modern tools of the trade. Drivers and minors are kindly asked not to partake in the sampling.
Cultural Kingdom, the Gyokusendo Caves and Habu Park comprise Okinawa World, where people can learn about traditional Ryukyuan arts and crafts in the reconstructed Ryukyu village, watch snakes slither in Habu Park, and then take a five-kilometer (3-mile) walk under the massive stalactites in Gyokusendo Caves, the largest cave in Okinawa. Visitors can choose to only enter specific exhibits for a lower ticket price. The park closes half an hour earlier from November to March.
Located near the American Village in Mihama, Chatan Park Sunset Beach is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the gorgeous sunset after a long day of sightseeing. Admission and parking are free, and lifeguards are on duty. Coin lockers are available for JPY200.
Home to a municipal head from the 18th Century, the Nakamura Family Residence contains the most iconic features of Okinawan architecture, namely the red tiled roofs and the shisa (lion-like statue that wards off evil). Stone walls and tall trees protect the house from Okinawa's frequent typhoons. Visitors to the residence should also consider visiting Nakagusuku Castle, which is close by.
Designated a World Hertiage Site, this is the first site a Ryukyu King visited after ascending to the throne, and also where Ryukyu's supreme priestesses were ordained and performed rituals. In legend, the ritual site was created by Amamikiyo, the goddess who created the Ryukyu Islands. Prayers are made facing Kudaka Island, the place where Amamikiyo first descended from the heavens. Two giant stones form the entrance to the prayer area.
When driving on the Okinawa Expressway between Northern and Southern Okinawa, take a break at the Okinawa Athletic Park to stretch your legs and play with the kids. The facilities at this park include bathrooms, play areas, a running track, a lake, mini-golf, and tennis courts. Every February, the Okinawa Marathon begins here.
The Okinawa Kids Discovery Museum has enough activities to keep the most inquisitive of children occupied. Facilities in the museum include an interactive space where children can play with the exhibits to create art, a zoo with a petting area, and a reading corner. Last entry is an hour before closing, and the museum closes half an hour earlier from October to March.