Shuri Castle Festival walks visitors through history

One of Okinawa’s three main festivals is set to begin on Friday, Oct. 31st, on the grounds of Shuri Castle.

Kings don’t walk, they’re carried in style by lesser mortals.

The Shuri Castle Festival runs from Friday through Monday, Nov. 3rd, focusing on the castle’s centuries of history.  The Shuri Castle Festival’s final day is a Japanese national holiday, ‘Culture Day’.  This is the day that the Japanese Constitution was promulgated in 1946, and for the purpose of promoting culture, arts, peace and freedom, which are the fundamental principles of the Japanese Constitution, thousands of events will be held everywhere in Japan.

Construction of Shuri Castle first started at the beginning of the 15th century in the Ryukyu Kingdom era, and it was the seat of the Kingdom’s administration as well as the residence of the King and his family.  In addition, the castle played an important role as the center of ritual ceremonies.

The coronation ceremony is enacted on the center yard of the castle.

Various cultural performing arts and renditions were played in the castle and around the area throughout the centuries, so the Castle was also the center of cultural and artistic activities until the Kingdom was abolished in 1879. In other words, Shuri Castle was the stage when the Ryukyu Kingdom was at the height of its prosperity for 450 years.

The castle was completely destroyed in the Okinawa war, but its full reconstruction started in 1986. In 2000, Shuri Castle was enrolled in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list. In such a historic site, a number of events are held.  The historic ceremonies and traditional performing arts are attractive and very interesting even to people of the modern era!  The festival offers an excellent chance to enjoy the history and culture of Ryukyu Kingdom era both at the same time.

Many cultural activities will play at Shuri Castle during the festival.  Performing arts shows take place 10 a.m. ~ 4:30 p.m. on the 31st, and 10 a.m. ~ 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 1st and 2nd.  Admission is free at Shichanu-una, a free-of-charge open space outside the center yard of the Shuri Castle.

The parade and ceremony of Chinese Imperial envoys was the Ryukyu Kingdom’s greatest ceremony, centered on the coronation ceremony of the Ryukyu King by the Chinese Imperial envoy.   It will be reenacted Nov. 1st with a parade at 11:40 a.m. at Shureimon ~ shichanu-una, a free zone.  The ceremonies follow at 12:10 p.m. at the center yard of Shuri Castle, the Una area, for which there is an admission charge of ¥820 for adults, ¥620 for high school students, and ¥310 for junior high school and elementary school students.  Kids under six years old are admitted free.

The Great Parade of the Kingdom’s King and Queen, the Pageantry parade and traditional performing arts will be recreated Nov. 2nd starting 12:30 p.m. on Kokusai Street in Naha City.  Some 700 people in gorgeous costumes will attract the crowd. Admission is free.

The lighting of candles will take place both Nov. 1st and 2nd starting at 5 p.m. through 9 p.m. Both the Castle and Ryu-tan Pond will be lighted by thousands of candles. People can enjoy walking and taking in the night view of the castle.  Admission is free.

The Ancient Rite Parade is one of the important ceremonies that took place on the 3rd day of the new-year.  It was the first outing ceremony of the year for the King, when he visited temples near the Castle in order to pray for the peace and security of the Kingdom and for abundant production of grain.

In addition to the King and Queen, people can see several hundred executives, warrior class people and high-class female shamans who were an essential part of the King’s entourage.  The parade takes place Nov. 3rd from 12:50 through 3:30 p.m. at Una, the center yard of Shuri Castle.  Admission to Una is ¥820 for adults, ¥620 for high school students, and ¥310 for junior high school and elementary school students.  Kids under six years old are admitted free.