AsiaJapanShuri

Happy 3rd Day of New Year!

Shuri Travel Blog

 › entry 7 of 14 › view all entries
Some of the castle buildings in the distance
As I mentioned in the previous post, the Japanese New Year is celebrated for the first 3 days of the year.  Everyone has those days off from work to party, visit their shrines and be with their families.  Shurijo Castle, one of the most well-known attractions on Okinawa, also holds special events during the new year days.  The 1st and 2nd are more for only the Japanese people, but the 3rd is open for anyone to participate.  Nicole, Laura and I took the monorail in on the morning of the 3rd and made the short walk from the station to Shurijo.  It was really amazing to turn the corner of a modern street and suddenly feel like we stepped back in time a few centuries.  The only thing in immediate view was the original stone walls that surround the castle and some of the traditional roofs of the compound buildings in the background.
Walls around Shurijo.
 

Once inside the protective walls there is a path to the main gate that leads to an outer area still outside the main central court of the castle.  In that area there was a stage set up for shows and girls dressed up in traditional Okinawan kimonos handing out tea and awamori (an Okinawan liquor).  After taking some pictures with the girls, we headed into the main courtyard of the castle to take pictures and get a spot for the presentation of the emperor.  As you can see from the pictures I took, the castle is beautiful and colorful.  It's architecture is Chinese, since they occupied Okinawa during the time the castle was built.  Shurijo itself was the home of Okinawa's Ryukuan emperors for about 400 years and is the only remaining castle on Okinawa.
Shurijo Castle
  Unfortunately, the original buildings were destroyed during WWII, leaving only the original foundation and outer walls.  What stands there today is a rebuilt replica, but incredibly accurate to the old pictures I've seen of the original castle.

During New Years the castle does a reenactment of the presentation of the emperor and his wife.  Basically, they leave the castle with their servants around them and great the people.  Sometimes I guess they do even more extravagant reenactments of coronation ceremonies and other festivals, but this was a pretty short and basic show.  It was interesting to at least see how the emperor would have presented himself back then.  His servants and wife always stayed behind him, even when they stood in a line, you could see they were just 1 step behind where he stood.
The procession.
  After the show, we went through the castle and some of the other buildings next to it.  They had exhibits about the emperors that occupied there, what life was like for them, and the history of the castle buildings.  We saw the thrown room and the traditional living space with tatami rooms and shrines.  Everyone has to take their shoes off before entering the buildings and it's kind of funny to be walking through this almost museum-like atmosphere with a bunch of people in their socks!

Later, we went into the outer courtyard and there were eisa dancers performing on the stage.  They had beautiful costumes and performed very precise dances, sometimes with fans or flowers.  Most of the dances were slow, but Nicole said there are also fast ones with drummers and yelling.
Eisa dancers.
  They probably don't do those on New Years since it's supposed to be a more reverent holiday.

Having enough of standing in the hot sun, we headed out of Shurijo and off to eat lunch at Mos Burger.  It's like a Japanese version of McDonalds, except that their food is 100 times better.  Their hamburgers are actually existent and very tasty.  I was super impressed.  Maybe not as much as at Shurijo, but just about as impressed as I can get by fast food. 

It's a pretty interesting day when you can get both the taste of 400 years of ancient Okinawan culture and about the least-traditional Japanese food you can find within 4 hours and 2 blocks of each other.


Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Some of the castle buildings in th…
Some of the castle buildings in t…
Walls around Shurijo.
Walls around Shurijo.
Shurijo Castle
Shurijo Castle
The procession.
The procession.
Eisa dancers.
Eisa dancers.
Front gate.
Front gate.
Shuri
photo by: Chariot13