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World Heritage Sites in Japan

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Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu

Ruins of the main island of Okinawa where
the influence of Japan, China and the Korean Peninsula still lingers

Okinawa prefecture

Cultural heritage sites are scattered among the southernmost islands of Japan and on the main island of Okinawa. There are 9 ruins symbolizing the unique culture and religious beliefs of the Kingdom of Ryukyu that once flourished here.

In Okinawa, dictatorships began to arise in various areas from around the twelfth century, and castle-like buildings called "Gusuku" were constructed. However, these buildings were not like Himeji-jo Castle, which is registered as a world heritage site as well, but more like a fort. Gusuku were also treated as sacred sites under local religious belief. When the 14th century came along, each area was unified into three counties and the unified Kingdom of Ryukyu was finally established in 1429. In line with this, the symbol of the Kingdom "Shuri-jo Castle" became the sole Gusuku.

Shuri-jo is built on upland 120 m above sea level overlooking Naha City. The castle area surrounded by stone walls approx. 10 m high is 400 m east to west and 270 m north to south. Inside the castle, there is an open space and facilities for political, cultural and diplomatic activities and festivals, and the largest wooden structure in Okinawa "Shoden (central building)" was built on the castle premises. This building shows a strong influence from various cultures including from Japan and China, which proves that trade with Asian countries was very active at the time. The pattern of dragons or vermilion lacquer coating shows the influence of China, and the structural form of the roof shows the influence of Japan. Shurijo was completely destroyed in World War II and most of the present buildings are reproductions built up until 1992. Because this place is used as a location for TV dramas, it attracts many tourists.

On the west side of Shurijo is a massive stone structure, "Tamaudun", created using a natural rocky outcrop. This is the tomb of the successive royal families of the Kingdom of Ryukyu, and the inside of the tomb is paved with coral reef fragments, and at the center of the structure and in the east and west towers stand lion statues called Shisa, which are a symbol of Okinawa and a charm against evil.

Naha city, Chinen village, Nakagusuku village, Kitanakagusuku village, Katsuren town, Yomitan village, Nakijin village, all on the Okinawa Main Island in Okinawa prefecture


Shurijo: Approx. 15-minute walk from the Okinawa Monorail Shuri station.