: Classifieds : MyJU :
Stories: Culture
Browse Culture Stories: « Previous Story | Next Story »

Nakijin Castle illuminates for Cherry Blossom Festival

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2008-01-29

Colorful green, red and blue lights are shimmering off the walls of historic Nakijin Castle as northern Okinawa celebrates the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Nakijin Castle, a world heritage site on the Motobu Peninsula in Nakijin Village near Nago City, is paying homage to the sakura for the very first time, hosting a Cherry Blossom Festival through February 10th. More than 200 Japanese lanterns line the stone stairs leading up the mountain to Nakijin Castle, center of the Kingdom of Hokuzan in the 13th through 15th centuries.

The castle, battered through centuries of typhoons and the ravages of the 1945 Battle of Okinawa, was home to King Haniji, ruler of the Northern Kingdom during the early 14th century as the island was divided into three factions. Its fortified position atop a sharp cliff overlooking the Shigema River made Nakijin Castle a fortress almost impossible for enemies to attack.

Nakijin Castle covers more than 14 acres, with limestone inner and outer walls stretching more than 1.5 kilometers. Housed within the castle were the King and his family, supply centers and a security army. The multi-level castle was the largest castle of the early years of the Ryukyu Dynasty. Its stone walls still stand, a site for visitors who transit the castle grounds daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Nakijin Village History and Culture Center is west of the ruins. A series of shrines built to honor the gods are still standing, and a stone paved road runs along the Hanta Trail surrounding the castle. Nakijin Castle is an active archeological excavation site, with hundreds of artifacts continuing to be discovered tracing King Hanijiís trade relationships with China and countries of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam.

The castle was named a National Historic Site by the Ministry of Education in 1972, and historians and archeologists pore through the grounds on a regular basis. The Kingdom of Hokuzan was heavily involved with Chinese trade, and Chinese pottery dating to the 13th century are still being uncovered. Vietnamese pottery supports historiansí theory Hokuzan dealt directly with Southeast Asia for spices, a treasured commodity in China during the time.

Nakijin Castle and the Hokuzan Kingdom fell in 1416, when the central Okinawa Chuzan Kingdom attacked and overpowered the region. The Hokuzan Kingdom had survived for a century, but the stronger forces of Chuzan King Hasi led King Haniji and his senior leaders to commit suicide.

Absorbed into the Chuzan Kingdom, Nakijin Castle served as the kingdomís northern outpost for more than 200 years, serving officials from Shuri. Its glory era ended in 1609, when Tokugawa Shogun ordered his regent back to Shuri, leaving Nakijin Castle an empty shell filled with ghosts and memories.

Today, itís alive with tourists celebrating beautiful sakura, the colorful pink cherry blossoms. The daily illuminations for the Cherry Blossom Festival run from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. February 2nd and 3rd are designated dancing days, with festival organizers setting a special stage for performing traditional song and dance. Admission fee is •300 for those under 18, and •400 for adults.

Nakijin Castle is easy to reach. Travel north on Highway 58 toward Nago City. Inside the city, turn right, going northbound on Highway 72 to Nakijin Village. Once in the village, turn left onto Highway 505 headed west. Travel three kilometers, then look for signs marking the route to the site.

Browse Culture Stories: « Previous Story | Next Story »

weather currency health and beauty restaurants Yellowpages JU Blog

JU FacebookOkistyleOkistyle

Go to advertising PDF?||?|o?L?qAE?|?}?OA?N?ga`OkiStyle?A??q?qM?oeu^?I`??N?gX?<eth>?<ETH>?ni^?IWanted!!Golden Kings ScheduleOkiNightSeeker