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Glimpse into many-faceted Urasoe City

By: By Jun Ikemura

Date Posted: 2011-09-30

How much do you know about Urasoe city?

For those who crisscross the island and don’t really know it, you’ve most likely been in the city often. It’s the 4th biggest city in Okinawa and is filled with sightseeing, shopping places and companies. Urasoe City is the second largest in terms of population density in Okinawa. The 1st is Naha City. Camp Kinser is a part of Urasoe and the American Consulate is located in Urasoe city too.

In old old times, according to historical literature, Urasoe was the capital of Okinawa. The origin of the word “Urasoe” is from “Uraosoi”; “ura” meaning bay and “osoi” meaning attack, thus “Uraosoi” means attack and reign over all bays in the world. The word and pronunciation has been changing with each era, and finally became “Urasoe”.

Okinawa means the same as the Ryukyu Kingdom, and has a lot of mythology stories of course, but reliable stories of the Ryukyu Kingdom start from Urasoe in the history books. According to a mythological story of Ryukyu Kingdom, the first king lived in the 13th century and built a castle in Urasoe on the site that is known as a Urasoe Castle Ruin Park now. The Urasoe Castle is speculated to have been about 380m wide and 80m depth, a really huge castle at the time. King Shunten was leader of the Ryukyu Kingdom at that time, and his reign is called “Shunten period”. Little exists, relatively speaking, of him. Actually, that’s why some archaeologists believe that the first king “Shunten” is still just mythology. But the second period story about “King Eiso” is different, reliability marked by his tomb existing in same area of Urasoe Castle ruin now. The tomb is called “Urasoe Youdore” and it was restored a decade ago the original being destroyed in World war II. You can visit to see it, but still only the exterior is accessible, not the insides of it, unless you go to see the mock interior in the Youdore Museum just next to the site. Also King Eiso is called “son of sun “ because his mother dreamed that the sun came into herself just before Eiso was born.

Urasoe is also connected with another word, “Tedako, which” means son “ko” of sun “Tida”. Tomb Youdore contains two big tombs, one for “King Eiso” and the other for “King Syo-nei” who was also one of the Kings of Ryukyu Kingdom and from Urasoe. King Syo-nei, who lived in the 3rd period of Ryukyu Kingdom, told a servant that he wanted his ashes to be placed in the Urasoe Youdore when he passed away. It was the time almost 300 years later from King Eis’s death. From the 3rd period of the Ryukyu Kingdom era called “King Syo” period, all Kings of Ryukyu Kingdom’s ashes are placed at “Tama Udun” in Shuri, within the same area as Shuri castle. Only King Sho-nei didn’t want his ashes there, and asked to be placed at Youdore. If you are interested in more of this story, just visit the Youdore Museum, where there are introductions in English.

The Youdore area is a part of Urasoe Daikouen (Urasoe Big Park), where there are many historical items and plenty of green fields, nature, athletic fields, a walking course, kids’ playground, and lot of observatories where one can see panoramic views of the city. It’s really a huge park; you can not walk around and see all sightseeing spots and items in one day. A baseball stadium, Urasoe Art Museum and the city gymnasium are next to the park too.

After a visit to the Urasoe Daikouen, Barclays Court shopping mall is waiting just next to the park. But be advised to travel by car, because the park is so huge, that kids don’t want walk such a long way. The Barclays Court shopping mall is on an area used by the U.S. military for a long time. After the land was returned, a multiple use shopping center was constructed there, but a small part of that area is still used vy theU.S., the American Consulate Naha is located there. That’s why there are many shops where staff can speak English, so it’s easy to go around and have fun there. There are many restaurants and Izakaya, electronic shops, sports shops, fashions, coffee shops, a grocery market, and a 100 yen shop. A huge free parking area is in the middle.

Early fall is probably the best time of the year to visit the park and the other areas as the weather is cool enough to walk around but not so cold that you’d need a jacket.

Of course all this is just a small part of Urasoe City, and there’s much more to explore.

To get to Urasoe Daikouen park take the Okinawa Expressway south and get off at Nishihara Exit. Continue on 330 towards Naha. After an overpass – U.S. Consulate and Barclay’s Court Mall are on the left – turn left. Continue the road downhill, and Daikouen is in front and left of you. There are several free parking areas around the park.

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