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Nakamura House: 200 Year Old Architectural Beauty

By: Wendy Hively

Date Posted: 2000-09-29

Tucked away from the main roads and busy shopping areas is one of the oldest and most impressive pieces of Okinawa’s rich cultural heritage; Nakamura House. The residence dates back to the mid-1700s and was built in the style typical of houses on mainland Japan during the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (1185-1572). The Nakamura family traces it’s roots to the early 15th century when one of its ancestors was employed by Lord Gosamaru of Zakimi. Following Lord Gosamaru’s ruin, the Nakamura family endured many years of hardship. Good luck was bestowed upon the Nakamura family once again in the early 1700s when the royal government of Shuri asked another of its ancestors to assume the duties of a Jitoshoku (village headman).

The style of the Nakamura house reflects that of a rich farmer’s residence. The house, as it appears today, remains virtually unchanged from its original plan. One exception is the roof. Initially, the house was covered with a thatched roof but was replaced during the family’s 7th generation with the Okinawan red tiles that are present today. The replacement of the roof reflected the family’s ascent up the social ladder, since strict laws prohibited members of lower social classes from owning homes with such embellishments.

The residence is surrounded by huge stone walls that were built for protection from typhoons. Just inside these walls is a lush, tropical garden filled with low-lying shrubbery, flowers and Fukugi trees which are over 250 years old. These trees, know for their sturdiness, were also planted for protection from the typhoons. Today, the Fukugi trees are used to make yellow dye and threads to weave Bingata, the traditional Okinawan hand-dyed fabric. The house is graced with two noticeable talismen, which are believed to ward off evil spirits. The Hinpun, two large stone slabs sit at the entrance to the courtyard and the Shi-sa, a dragon-like creature rests on the roof of the house.

The main part of the house boasts eight rooms which include the kitchen, dining room, guestroom, bedrooms, altar room, living room and Nakame (used by the family to sort farm products). An annex was built onto the house to provide a place for the second and third sons and their families until they moved into houses of their own. The annex was also used as guest quarters for government officials visiting from Shuri. The rooms are separated only by sliding wooden doors covered with opaque Japanese rice paper.

Each room is modestly decorated with antique furniture and traditional Japanese wall hangings. All of the floors are covered with tatami mats except for the family room which has a woven straw mat. Visitors to the house are required to remove their shoes prior to entering these rooms.

Religious themes, an ever-present part of Japanese culture, are reflected throughout the home. One of the large rooms in the front of the house contains the Butsudan (altar). Prayers to the fire god are said in the kitchen near the hearth and several upright stones mark this spot. Hanging above the doors leading outside are wind chimes which are believed to circulate good energy and keep evil spirits away.

Located to the left of the main house is the kachiku (barn) which housed cows, horses and goats. Behind the stables is the huru, or pigpen, where pigs were raised to feed the family or sell at local markets. The family also had a rather large storehouse, or takakura, that was built off the ground to protect the harvested farm products from rainwater and rodents.

Included in the price of admission is tea which is served in the gift shop located in the building nearest the parking lot. There are several small tables, with small pottery tea cups in the center, where you can sit and enjoy a taste of Japanese tea. For purchase in the gift shop are treats such as dried papaya and Japanese candies. In addition are some beautiful Okinawan crafts including pottery, jewelery and bingata.

To get to Nakamura house, take Route 58 South from Kadena Air Base. Turn left onto Route 130. Proceed until Route 130 intersects with Route 330. Take a right onto Route 330 (south). Turn left onto Route 81 then right onto Route 146. Follow Route 146 for approximately 1.7 km where you will see a small sign for Nakagusuku Park. Turn right. About 30 yards past the turn, you will see a paved parking area, surrounded by a stone wall, on the right. The entrance to Nakamura House is at the back of the parking lot. Admission is Y300 for adults, Y200 for junior high and high school students and Y100 for grade school students.

Tucked away from the main roads and busy shopping areas is one of the oldest and most impressive pieces of Okinawa’s rich cultural heritage; Nakamura House. The residence dates back to the mid-1700s and was built in the style typical of houses on mainland Japan during the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (1185-1572). The Nakamura family traces it’s roots to the early 15th century when one of its ancestors was employed by Lord Gosamaru of Zakimi. Following Lord Gosamaru’s ruin, the Nakamura family endured many years of hardship. Good luck was bestowed upon the Nakamura family once again in the early 1700s when the royal government of Shuri asked another of its ancestors to assume the duties of a Jitoshoku (village headman).

The style of the Nakamura house reflects that of a rich farmer’s residence. The house, as it appears today, remains virtually unchanged from its original plan. One exception is the roof. Initially, the house was covered with a thatched roof but was replaced during the family’s 7th generation with the Okinawan red tiles that are present today. The replacement of the roof reflected the family’s ascent up the social ladder, since strict laws prohibited members of lower social classes from owning homes with such embellishments.

The residence is surrounded by huge stone walls that were built for protection from typhoons. Just inside these walls is a lush, tropical garden filled with low-lying shrubbery, flowers and Fukugi trees which are over 250 years old. These trees, know for their sturdiness, were also planted for protection from the typhoons. Today, the Fukugi trees are used to make yellow dye and threads to weave Bingata, the traditional Okinawan hand-dyed fabric. The house is graced with two noticeable talismen, which are believed to ward off evil spirits. The Hinpun, two large stone slabs sit at the entrance to the courtyard and the Shi-sa, a dragon-like creature rests on the roof of the house.

The main part of the house boasts eight rooms which include the kitchen, dining room, guestroom, bedrooms, altar room, living room and Nakame (used by the family to sort farm products). An annex was built onto the house to provide a place for the second and third sons and their families until they moved into houses of their own. The annex was also used as guest quarters for government officials visiting from Shuri. The rooms are separated only by sliding wooden doors covered with opaque Japanese rice paper.

Each room is modestly decorated with antique furniture and traditional Japanese wall hangings. All of the floors are covered with tatami mats except for the family room which has a woven straw mat. Visitors to the house are required to remove their shoes prior to entering these rooms.

Religious themes, an ever-present part of Japanese culture, are reflected throughout the home. One of the large rooms in the front of the house contains the Butsudan (altar). Prayers to the fire god are said in the kitchen near the hearth and several upright stones mark this spot. Hanging above the doors leading outside are wind chimes which are believed to circulate good energy and keep evil spirits away.

Located to the left of the main house is the kachiku (barn) which housed cows, horses and goats. Behind the stables is the huru, or pigpen, where pigs were raised to feed the family or sell at local markets. The family also had a rather large storehouse, or takakura, that was built off the ground to protect the harvested farm products from rainwater and rodents.

Included in the price of admission is tea which is served in the gift shop located in the building nearest the parking lot. There are several small tables, with small pottery tea cups in the center, where you can sit and enjoy a taste of Japanese tea. For purchase in the gift shop are treats such as dried papaya and Japanese candies. In addition are some beautiful Okinawan crafts including pottery, jewelery and bingata.

To get to Nakamura house, take Route 58 South from Kadena Air Base. Turn left onto Route 130. Proceed until Route 130 intersects with Route 330. Take a right onto Route 330 (south). Turn left onto Route 81 then right onto Route 146. Follow Route 146 for approximately 1.7 km where you will see a small sign for Nakagusuku Park. Turn right. About 30 yards past the turn, you will see a paved parking area, surrounded by a stone wall, on the right. The entrance to Nakamura House is at the back of the parking lot. Admission is Y300 for adults, Y200 for junior high and high school students and Y100 for grade school students.

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