Shuri Castle celebrates heritage with New Year ceremonies

The King and Queen of the Ryukyu Kindgom exit from the castle with their royal entourage during the New Year ceremonies.

The symbol of the Ryukyu Kingdom, the world heritage-listed site Shuri Castle Park will host many ceremonies to open the New Year.

The ceremony ‘Ukejo’, which heralds opening the castle gate with a drum gong, takes place at 8:30 a.m. on the 1st to commence the New Year ceremony.   The highlight is the reconstruction ceremony called ‘Chohai-okishiki’ which consists of three parts.  The King of Ryukyu and all of the royal family, as well as workers who serve the king, and ordinary people will get together at Una area, the center yard of the castle, and celebrate the New Year and pray for peace, stability and prosperity.

The King and Queen will then go out of the dwelling with the rendition of Uzagaku, a Ryukyu version of Japanese court music ‘gagaku’.  At that point, visitors can do photo shoots with the king and queen, and dancers in gorgeous costumes of the Ryukyu Kingdom era will perform traditional dance and Hatagashira by groups in Shuri district.  People can enjoy sacred sake and tea at the charge-free zone Shichanu-una.

Activities run January 1st~3rd 8:30 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. at the Una area, the center yard of Shuri Castle, charge-free areas of Shichanu-una and a grass space of Suimui-kan which is the information center of the park.

While some areas are free, others have admission charges.  The special zone fee 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.  In the pay zone, the opening gate ceremony at Ukejo, the main chamber, is at 8:30 a.m.  On both January 1st and 2nd, the Ne wYear Ceremony Chohai-okishiki at the Una area takes place.  The photo shoots are at noon and 1 p.m.

In the free zone, traditional performing art takes place at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. at Shichanu-una. The Sacred sake and tea serving runs 8:30 a.m. ~ 5 p.m. at Shichanu-una. The big bell is rung at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. at Tomoya.  Hatagashuira takes place at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the grass space Suimuikan.