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Tranquility, peace a short drive away

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2004-06-24

Amidst the hustle and bustle of our island of Okinawa there sits a place of respite.

Dating hundreds of centuries to the glorious days of the Ryukyu Kingdom, Shikina-En, the Shikina Gardens, stands ready to give you a break from the frantic pace of today’s society.

Originally built in 1799 as one of many residences for the royal family, it served as the official guest house for the Kingdom as well. Its beauty is everywhere, from the distinctly Ryukyu designs to the Chinese designs incorporated into the Rokkaku-do, and visitors quickly shed the tensions of the city.

It was the second largest royal residence, located not far from Shuri Castle. A second residence was later built on the grounds to make space for Chinese royalty coming to Okinawa for the coronation of King Sho On in the early 1800’s.

Seemingly, each visitor has his or her own favorite places or reasons for visiting Shikina-En. As you pass through the entrance gate and begin walking the paths through the forest, peace and tranquility begin settling in and relaxation finds its way to you.

Plants are everywhere, and are carefully designed and arranged to take advantage of Okinawa’s sub-tropical climate. Although we often overlook the fact there are four seasons on Okinawa, there are, and the gardens make light of it.

Spring brings fragrant flowers and blossoms to the Ume grove, the plums, on the east side. Fuji wisteria flowers are very much in evidence on the island which sits in the middle of the lake, and share the landscape with violets from Kikyo, and also Chinese bellflowers.

Shikina-En is some 23,265 square meters, with buildings taking up only a fraction of the space. It is scenic, and beauty prevails. It is a circular landscape garden, with the lake (some would call it a pond) capturing your breath with its beauty.

The original gardens were built centuries ago, but were destroyed during World War II. Rebuilt in 1975, the Shikina-En is designated a national place of scenic beauty. The gardens can be visited in several hours, but to fully appreciate it, more time is recommended.

Take time to stop at Ikutoku-Sen, the Springs, and enjoy the clean water that serves as the pond’s source of water. Surrounded by limestone walls, the Spring has two monuments on each side of its opening, one a tribute to Cho Bunkai, chief delegate to King Sho On’s coronation in 1800. The other is to Kan-Rei-En-Rei-Hi, Chinese delegate to King Sho-iku’s coronation in 1838.

The Uden, the main palace on the grounds, has the formal style with red roof exclusively
allowed for upper society. This 525 square meter palace, enhanced during the Meiji Era and Taisho Era, has 15 rooms, including the meeting hall where Chinese delegates who came to Okinawa for coronation of kings gathered.

The Cost

Shikin-En is an inexpensive family excursion. Admission is only ¥300 for adults and ¥100 for children younger than junior high school age. Preschool age children are free.

The gardens are open daily except Wednesdays. The gardens open at 9:00 daily, and remain open until 5:30pm April through September, and until 5:00pm October through March.

Getting There

From Naha Airport, follow Highway 58 and make a right after passing Naha Military Port. Take a left onto Highway 330 and head north, following it to the Yogi Intersection, then turn right. Follow the road through a left hairpin curve, then take a right at the next traffic light. Shikina-En is on the right. From the bases, travel south on the Expressway to the end. Turn left and travel about one kilometer. You will turn right at the third traffic signal, where large signs direct you to the gardens. One kilometer up that road, Shikina-En will be on your left. There is ample parking.

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