Shurijō (首里城), a world heritage castle in Okinawa and Japan’s National Historic Site, was the residence of the Ryūkyū Kingdom’s king from 1429 to 1879. Prior to the last king of Ryūkyū surrendering Okinawa to the Meiji government, the castle was the center of the island’s political, diplomatic, and cultural center for centuries.
Through trading with China, Japan, and other Southeast Asian countries, Ryūkyū formed its unique culture and manufactured gorgeous crafts, including lacquerware, dyed textiles, and pottery.
Unfortunately, Shurijō became the victim of World War Two, and the castle was burnt to ashes in 1945. Although the castle was restored in 1992, many important buildings were later sadly destroyed in a fire hazard in 2019.
Important: The reconstruction of Shurijō is planned to be completed in 2026.
What to See on the Ground of Shurijō
While the main buildings are currently under reconstruction, that doesn’t mean Shurijō Castle Park isn’t worth visiting! Before the magnificent castle is fully restored, below is a list of things you can check out when you visit the castle!
- Shureimon Gate (守礼門)
- Enkakuji and Benzaitendō (円覚寺・弁財天堂)
- 32nd Army Headquarters Shelter (第32軍司令部壕)
- Kankaimon Gate (歓会門)
- Zuisenmon Gate (瑞泉門)
- Rokokumon Gate (漏刻門)
- Kōfukumon Gate (広福門)
- Suimui Utaki (首里森御嶽)
- Hōshinmon Gate (奉神門)
- Shurijō Seiden (首里城正殿)
- Tamaudun (玉陵)
- Kinjō Stone Road (金城町石畳道)
- Kariisanfan (ぶくぶく茶屋かりーさんふぁん（嘉例山房))
☛ The staircases in Shurijō Castle Park are usually steep and can be slippery. Wearing a pair of good-quality sneakers is recommended.
☛ In addition to the below introduction, you can also refer to the information on THIS WEBPAGE when you get to the castle park.
☛ From 7 pm to 12 am, the castle park is illuminated at night unless the lighting equipment is under maintenance.
☛ If you would like to explore Shurijō Castle Park and Naha in a traditional Japanese Kimono, refer to HERE. Wearing the traditional Ryukyu costume is another way to explore Naha in style. Refer to HERE to book a dress-up session!
☛ Refer to HERE to book a pick-up and drop-off service from Naha Airport. You can also book a luggage delivery service HERE between Naha Airport and your hotel.
☛ If you would like to explore Naha with an electric-assisted bicycle, refer to HERE.
Enjoy Naha With a Guided Tour
If you prefer a guide to introduce you to the charms of Naha and the surrounding destinations, how about joining one of the below tours?
- Okinawa Hip Hop Bus Tour: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium and More
- Naha Full-Day Private Tour with Government Licensed Guide
- Sakaemachi Market Bar Hopping Tour
- Karate History Tour in Okinawa
Participating in Interesting Activities in Naha
- Moby Dick Dinner Cruise in Naha
- Official Naha Street Go-Kart Tour
- Shuri Ryusen Coral Dyeing
- Kendo/Samurai Experience In Okinawa
- Parasailing Experience from Naha
- Full-Day Snorkeling Experience in the Kerama Islands (Naha Departure)
Shurijō Castle’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information
☛ Show your Yui Rail (ゆいレール) One-Day or Two-Day ticket for a discount on the admission fee!
☛ If you use klook, you can also purchase Shurijō Castle’s admission ticket HERE!
Shureimon Gate (守礼門)
Shureimon is the gate closest to the Shurijō Castle Park Rest Center, where you can get tourist information. Therefore it is the best entrance gate to enter the park!
Shurei means treating others with courtesy. Influenced by Confucianism, Ryūkyū was a country that took courtesy seriously. The compliment didn’t come from a random visitor but the Emperor of the Ming dynasty in 1579!
The gate that was built in the mid-16th is the symbol of such virtue.
In addition, Shureimon is the most famous gate in Shurijō Castle. Not just because of its magnificent appearance but also because it was printed on the 2,000 yen note issued in 2000, when the G8 Summit took place in Okinawa.
Enkakuji and Benzaitendō (円覚寺・弁財天堂)
From Shureimon, if you detour and head left where the promenade splits, you will reach the castle’s temple, Enkakuji.
Enkakuji is a temple located just outside the castle’s northern ramparts. It was erected in 1492 by the king during that reign as the imperial family temple. Like most parts of Shurijō, the entire structure was destroyed in 1945. What was restored in 1968 was the temple’s Sōmon Gate (総門).
The Enkanchi pond (円鑑池), completed in 1502, is the reservoir for Shurijō Castle. The small temple at the side of Enkanchi is Benzaitendō.
Initially, the temple was built to store the Buddhist sutra gifted by the Korean king in the mid-15th century. However, both the temple and the sutra were lost when the Satsuma Domain (薩摩藩) attacked Ryūkyū in 1609.
When the temple was restored in 1621, a Benzaiten statue was moved from Enkakuji and enshrined there.
The current Benzaiten statue was gifted by the Satsuma Domain in 1685.
32nd Army Headquarters Shelter (第32軍司令部壕)
Close to the Benzaitendō, the 32nd Army Headquarters Shelter was the base of the Japanese army since 1879. Made from hard limestone, it was built to withstand heavy naval gunfire and air raids.
But the large-scale naval gunfire from U.S. Navy battleships destroyed most of the shelter structure. The subsequent ground battles and air raids shattered almost everything standing on the ground in Shurijō Castle Park.
Kankaimon Gate (歓会門)
Shureimon Gate is not Shurijō’s main gate. Kankaimon, which stands on the other end of the promenade from Shureimon, formally marks the castle’s ground.
Just before the Kankaimon Gate, the stone Sonohyan-Utaki Ishimon you see there (園比屋武御嶽石門) is a listed world heritage.
The reason why we wanted to point that out? Because most of the restored buildings on the castle’s ground weren’t part of the world heritage registration.
Utaki (御嶽) is a place where gods’ gatherings take place. It is also where the king of the Ryūkyū kingdom would pray for a safe trip before embarking on his travel.
So back to the topic: Kankaimon is the main gate of Shurijō.
As its name suggests, the gate welcomes everyone who passes through the gate, including envoys sent by the Chinese emperors. The two lion statues’ duty is to keep the evil spirits away from the castle.
Kankaimon was built around 1500 and restored in 1974 after its destruction in 1945.
Zuisenmon Gate (瑞泉門)
Down the stairs in front of Zuisenmon is an old water fountain called Ryūhi (龍樋). The spring water from it was used as drinking water for the imperial and envoys.
Rokokumon Gate (漏刻門)
Rokokumon Gate is the gate located right in front of the center of Shurijō. To show one’s respect, this is where one would get off their palanquin, even for a high-ranked official.
The gate was named Rokoku due to the water clock inside the turret.
Kōfukumon Gate (広福門)
The vermilion-colored Kōfukumon had two functions. The east chamber, Ōyoza (大与座), was in charge of the census register, and the Jishaza (寺社座) at the west administered temples and shrines.
Nowadays, Kōfukumon is where you get your admission ticket to access the paid area of Shurijō Castle. But instead of heading straight to the ticket gate after purchasing your ticket, check out the panoramic view of the surroundings and Naha City!
Suimui Utaki (首里森御嶽)
Suimui Utaki is one of the places of worship in Shurijō. The spot is mentioned in many of Ryūkyū’s traditional songs. Why? Because, according to legend, it is a sacred place created by god.
Hōshinmon Gate (奉神門)
Hōshinmon is the gate to the national palace of Shurijō Castle, which is called Seiden (正殿). The gate has three entrances, with the one in the middle exclusively used by the king and VIPs.
The original gate is determined to be completed before 1562 and was reconstructed as a Chinese-style gate in 1754.
In the late Meiji period, the gate was dismantled but was later restored in 1992.
Shurijō Seiden (首里城正殿)
The lavishly decorated Seiden is the center of Shurijō Castle. The large square in front of the three-story building is called Una (御庭), where many ceremonies and rituals took place.
The original Seiden is believed to be completed in the late 14th century.
Before the Seiden was burnt down in 2019, it had been destroyed several times due to fire hazards. The building in the photo was the one restored in 1992.
Hopefully, the reconstructed Seiden (due to be completed in 2026) will be as spectacular as the original one, as there aren’t many places in the world where you can admire an architectural style that combines both Chinese and Japanese elements so impressively!
The first floor of the Seiden, called Shichagui, can be described as the ‘office’ of the king, where political duties and ceremonies were conducted. The second floor is called Ufugui, a space for the imperial family to perform ceremonies and rituals.
Just a 5-minute walk from Shurimon Gate, Tamaudun is where the royal family of the Ryūkyū dynasty rests. It was built by the 3rd Ryūkyū king in 1501 for this father.
Before leaving the ticket office at the entrance, remember to check out the small museum inside the basement.
Tip: The lion statues above the mausoleum have a different appearance from Naha City‘s other Shisa statues.
Tamaudun’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information
- Tamaudun is open from 9 am to 6 pm.
- The last admission is at 5:30 pm.
- The admission fee is
- 300 yen for adults
- 150 yen for junior high school students and younger
Tip: Show your Yui Rail (ゆいレール) One-Day or Two-Day ticket for a discount on the admission fee.
Kinjō Stone Road (金城町石畳道)
Around a 10-minute walk from Shurimon Gate, the Kinjō Stone Road is a designated prefectural historic site. It is one of the hidden gems for some amazing photos.
Just note that the 300-meter-long promenade completed in 1522 is formed by locally sourced limestone in various sizes. Please be careful and watch your steps as you approach the uneven surfaces!
So, come with a pair of sneakers!
Shuri Kinjō Big Akagi Tree (首里金城の大アカギ)
Hiking further from the Kinjō Stone Road, what you will encounter is a gigantic Akagi tree. The tree, known as Shuri Kinjō Big Akagi Tree, is where the locals would pray for something big once a year.
The 200-year-old tree was designated as a national natural monument in 1972 and was believed to have some sort of sacred power.
Sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended, as the stone pavement can be rough and slippery.
Also, remember to bring a bottle of insect repellent to protect yourself from the mosquito colony hidden under the grove of trees. The tiny bloodsuckers are still active even in January!
A spot you might want to stop by after visiting Shurijō is Kariisanfan. The cafe, just a 5-minute walk from Shureimon Gate, is where you can make Okinawa‘s traditional bubbly tea!
The tea called Bukubuku-cha is made by mixing hot tea with hot water from boiling roasted rice. During the process of mixing the two liquids, a lot of foam is formed. Peanut powder is then sprinkled on top of the foam before you “swallow” the foam while drinking the tea.
Bukubuku is the Japanese word for bubbly. In addition, the Bukubuku in this context also means that good fortune comes one after another because Bukubuku can be written as “福々”.
In terms of tea flavor, there are 11 flavors for you to choose from, with the plain Genmai Pin Cha (玄米さんぴん茶) being the standard flavor.
Kariisanfan’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Kariisanfan is open from 10 am to 7 pm from Thursday to Monday.
- It is within a 5-minute walk from Shurijō Castle Park.
Yamagusuku Manjū (山城まんじゅう)
Just a 2-minute walk from Kariisanfan, Yamagusuku Manjū is another spot around Shurijō for you to top up your sugar level.
The confectionery maker with more than 160 years of history sells simple but delicious goods. The handmade red bean paste is first wrapped with a thin dumpling-like skin. Then the entire sweet is placed on shell ginger leaves and steamed for 30 minutes. You will soon notice that the freshly made manjū all have a nice fragrance of shell ginger!
The shop also reduces the sugar level in Yamagusuku Manjū, making it a popular confectionary for those who aren’t a fan of sugary or overly sweet food. In fact, the sweets maker receives more male customers than females!
☛ The shop is very popular among the locals, so be there by noon to avoid disappointment!
☛ Come to Yamagusuku Manjū at 10:30 am for the freshly made Manjū!
Yamagusuku Manjū’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Yamagusuku Manjū is open from 10:30 am to 4 pm or until sold out.
- The shop is closed on Mondays and Thursdays.
Discover Other Attractions in Naha
Your visit to Naha obviously won’t stop at Shurijō Castle as the city is filled with a wide range of attractions for you to discover! But which attractions are worth your time?
If that is the question on your mind, our Naha City article has got you covered! Whether it is shopping on the famous Kokusai-dōri Street or visiting a shrine located atop a cliff next to a local beach, you will find all the information you need in the article (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.