Shuri Castle Festival shows splendor of Ryukyu Kingdom
One of the three main festivals of the year commemorating the life of the Ryukyu Kingdom area is set to begin on Saturday, Oct. 31st, on the grounds of Shuri Castle.
The Shuri Castle Festival runs from Saturday through Tuesday, Nov. 3rd, and features a magnificent parade, Ryukyu dance and other traditional performing arts. The final day of the festival is a Japanese national holiday, ‘Culture Day’. The day marks the enacting of the current Japanese Constitution in 1946. It also promotes culture, arts, peace and freedom, and thousands of events will be held throughout Japan.
The Shuri Castle Festival consists of several traditional events and runs from 10:00 to 20:20 on Saturday and Sunday, and from 10:00 to 16:20 on Monday and Tuesday.
The events include a Sapposhi Parade and the Royal Coronation Ceremony on Saturday. The parade runs from 11:40 to 11:55 along a route from Shureimon Gate to Hoshinmon Gate. The parade follows the route that the envoys of the Emperor of China, called Sappo, marched when they arrived at the coronation ceremony of the King of the Ryukyus. Admission to the parade area is free.
The Coronation Ceremony follows the parade on the Una courtyard of the castle. The ceremony takes place from 12:10 to 13:10. There’s a fee of ¥820 for adults, ¥620 for junior high and elementary school children and ¥310 for younger children to attend the ceremony.
On Sunday, a parade re-enacting a procession of the entire royal court takes place along Kokusai Street starting 12:30. Admission to the parade area is free.
On the last day of the Festival, there’s a procession called “Koshiki-Gyoretsu.” It follows the route the king and the queen once followed when visiting the three temples located near the castle to pray. The procession takes place from 12:50 to 15:30.
There are other free events featuring Ryukyu music and dance, night-time candle lighting and ringing the big bell of the castle during the course of the festival.
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 Castle was also the center of cultural and artistic activities until the Kingdom was abolished in 1879. It 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.