Shuri castle (首里城/shurijyou) is a beautiful red castle nestled in Okinawa prefecture.
It was the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Ryukyu was an independent kingdom that ruled the islands of Okinawa and some neighbouring islands.
The Ryukyu Kingdom had it’s own language and culture – some people in Okinawa can still speak the Ryukyu language.
Around 1609 they were invaded and became an official part of Japan.
Shuri castle was almost completely destroyed in bombing in 1945.
It was rebuilt in 1992 from photographs, records and memory.
It has beautiful dragon imagery, sculptures and decoration.
Now it is one of Okinawa’s top tourist spots.
There are various gates you can collect stamps at as you walk around the grounds.
For a small fee you can enter the castle and museum, watch videos of the reconstruction and even enjoy tea and traditional sweets.
It is also home to a replica of the Bridge of Nations Bell (万国津梁の鐘/bankoku shinryo no kane).
The Ryukyu islands were a hub of trade between other Asian countries, hence the “bridge of nations” title.
The original bell survived the bombing in 1945 and is in Okinawa’s Prefectural Museum.
Protip: If you have the Okinawa monorail day pass (700yen) you can get discounted entry to the castle.