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Beautiful Remnant of 15th Century Intrigue, Zakimi Castle

Date Posted: 2000-12-29

Following the selection by UNESCO of nine World Heritage sites in Okinawa, we continue our series looking at the historical locations now afforded international protection. This one is Zakimi Castle.

The saga of Zakimi Castle is intimately bound up with the story of two lords, Gosamaru and Amawari, and with two other castles, Nakagusuku and Katsuren. The tale is one of 15th century Ryukyuan intrigue, deceit and betrayal. Zakimiís setting is as dramatic as its history, with a fine view of the ocean off Okinawa island.

Lord Gosamaru was a renowned castle builder of the time. The remains of his masterpiece, Zakimi, Castle still shows the exceptionally beautiful lines of the cut stone arch to the visitors today. But Gosamaru was not destined to stay within the confines of his magnificent creation. He was ordered by the king to move to the central area of the island and there he created Nakagusuku Castle, building the third fortifications and back gates.Close by was Amawari, lord of Katsuren Castle, ambitious and desirous of the throne of the Shuri King, Sho Taikyu. The castle of Amawari was situated on the Katsuren Peninsula, which juts out into the Pacific, and allowed him excellent opportunity for the foreign trade with which he enriched himself.As Amawari was a growing power in the area the king sent his daughter, Momotofumi- Agari, in marriage to appease and watch over Amawari and his ambitions. The king also placed his loyal retainer, Gosamaru, in Nakagusuku Castle mid-way between Katsuren and the capital, Shuri, to check any advance on the capital. Not long after Zakimi Castle was destroyed as a working fortress.

But the sturdiness of its construction ensured that enough of it remained for future generations to appreciate what a fine monument it was to a master builder. In 1458 the king's loyal retainer was killed in a revolt called the "Gosamaru-Amawari disturbance." Amawari schemed to divide king and retainer by informing the king that Gosamaru was going to revolt against him, despite his sworn allegiance, allowing Amawari to destroy Gosamaru.The saga was later made into an opera which is still performed today and is popular with Okinawan audiences.

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