Katsuren Castle

December 28

Katsuren GusukuKatsuren GusukuWe took a bus to Katsuren Castle, the ruins of a castle on top of a hill overlooking the sea. The ruins of the castle are being restored, but it looks like they are just beginning to do the restoration. At least there are arrows pointing the way up to the castle, but the way was just a muddy road.We managed to get to the top, though. Katsuren GusukuThere are three enclosures that remain, and the first one is on the top. Katsuren GusukuFrom the top, there is a great view of the bay and the surrounding countryside. (We thought we could see Nakagusku Castle across the bay, but we weren't sure.) Then we went back down to the second level, which once had a hall built on it. The bases of the pillars of the hall were still there. There was also a shrine on that level. It's hard to describe the effect of these ruins, except that looking at them, I could see that the castle must have at one time been very imposing and magnificent.





Katsuren GusukuKatsuren GusukuThis castle was probably originally built in the 12th or 13th century. One of the reasons Katsuren Castle is famous is its association with a local ruler named Awamari, who held out longest against uniting the island. He attacked Nakagusku Castle and captured it, but when he tried to capture Shuri Castle, he was badly defeated. Archeologists have found artifacts on the site that indicate that there was active trade between this part of the Ryukyus and other countries.


 Nakamura HouseNakamura HouseNakamura House



After we left the castle, we took a bus part way back to Naha, and then we set off to walk to the next castle. On the way, we visited the Nakamura House. It was the home of the Nakamura family. They moved to the area in the 16th century to serve the lord of Nakagusuku Castle. but when Nakagusuku Castle fell, the family suffered as well.



Nakamura HouseNakamura HouseGradually, they rebuilt their fortunes. They became prosperous farmers, and the house was typical of that type of family. It was originally built with a thatched roof, like such a house would have in Japan, but later it had a traditional Okinawan red tile roof put on.







Nakamura HouseNakamura HouseAs you enter the property, you are confronted with a stone wall called a Hinpun. The purpose of this stone wall was to keep out evil spirits. Also, if you looked up, there was a shiso on the roof, a statue of a fierce head of a shi-sa dog, which was also intended to protect the property from evil. Beyond the hinpun wall is a courtyard, with a storage room on the left, and an annex of the house with two rooms (built to house younger sons until they could start branch families of their own) is on the right, and straight ahead is the main part of the house. The main house has eight rooms, including a guest room, a kitchen, a family room, and a dining room. Next to the house is a barn, with space for cows, horses, and goats, and a pig pen.




Finally, we went to Nakagusuku Castle. It was built in the 1440s across the bay from Katsuren Castle. It is more sophisticated in its construction and a little better preserved.

NakagusukuNakagusukuIt is divided into six "citadels" or enclosures. The West Citadel was an open area that ran along the length of the west side, and it was used for training horses. The main gate leads from a road into the West Citadel. The South Citadel is on the southernmost point of land. The First Citadel is above the South Citadel and is the highest and affords a beautiful view of the bay. After seeing the First Citadel, we moved down to the Second Citadel, and finally the Third Citadel. The North Citadel is below the third. There is a moon-viewing platform in the First Citadel, and I can imagine that it was a great place from which to watch the moon rise.



NakagusukuNakagusukuThe mansion of the lord of the castle was also located in this citadel, and court ceremonies took place here. There is nothing left of the mansion itself, though I think we could see traces of the foundations. Even in ruins, the castle site is impressive. Commadore Matthew Perry visited Okinawa in the 19th century and was very impressed by it. I have to agree with him -- of the places we visited in Okinawa, this was the one I was most impressed by.







NakagusukuNakagusukuAfter we got back to Naha, we went to a street where there were a lot of pottery shops. It was interesting to see all the different types of pottery. The mainstay of the businesses seems to be shisa statues, and they come in great variety. (Shisa are called "temple dogs" or "lion dogs" in English, and come from China. The usually come in pairs, a male [with his mouth open] and a female [with her mouth closed], and you see them on gate posts in front of houses, businesses, and other buildings, but sometimes on rooftops, fences, etc.) We bought a rectangular plate, with a fish design. We learned that the potters who made the objects in that store were nearby, so we went to visit their small factory and watched them work on some pottery.




MarketLater, we went to a market, which sold all kinds of Okinawan food and ingredients for fixing it. Theoretically, you can pick out a fish at one of the stalls in the market and have it taken up to the second floor to be cooked in one of the restaurants in the food court. We didn't do that, but we did eat more Okinawan cuisine at the food court.