Gusuku (Castle) Ruins

グスク (katakana) or 城 (kanji): “gusuku” is the Okinawan word for “castle,” rather than the more conventional Japanese pronunciation of “shiro” (by itself, or used in family names) or “-jo” (used with the name of the castle, such as Shuri-jo).

Major Gusuku Sites: These are the major sites, the ones that are UNESCO world heritage sites. These are not to be missed when you visit Okinawa. In addition there are some other UNESCO related sites in Okinawa, which I will save for another post.

Shuri-jo, reconstructed: This is the main castle site as it is the only one that is completely reconstructed, so this is a must-see for everyone. There is a large free area to walk around, but inside where they have artifacts displayed you must pay admission (adults 820yen). Parking is not free in this area, and can occasionally be difficult; I usually park in the lot in front by the lake and the art school. There are also several great events hosted here throughout the year, and often they will have traditional music and dance performances.

Shuri-jo at Night

Nakagusuku-jo, partially reconstructed: There is an entrance fee (adults 400yen). There is plenty of free parking. Amazing views. There are often events held here during the year. Since this gusuku is closest to me, I come here often (and sometimes I walk from my house to here).

Katsuren-jo, partially reconstructed: Free entrance and plenty of parking. The views here are also spectacular on a clear day.


Zakimi-jo, partially reconstructed: Free admission. Views during the day are okay, sunset would be ideal.


Nakijin-jo, partially reconstructed: Entrance fee (adults 400yen), there is not much in the closest parking area so you may have to walk on a busy day. Some good views and a very popular spot for sakura-viewing (hanami).


*Places with entrance fees have reduced rates for children, seniors, and groups.

Minor Gusuku Sites: I cannot actually list all these, as there are a lot of these former gusuku sites (and many really have nothing to see, just an empty field). I will try to list the ones that at least have something “nice” to see and worth a visit if you have a lot of time in Okinawa. Many of these sites are just partial stone walls, small shrines or worship areas, etc. Also since minor gusuku sites are not as much maintained, they are all free and generally very quiet.


Gushikawa (in Itoman): Nice spot at the very southern area of the main island.

Tamagusuku: There are some walls remaining, but this is actually a nice site with some picturesque elements.


Chinen: Again, some walls remaining. Okay spot to stop at if you are in the area.

Itokazu: Walls remaining, a nice stop down south.


Ozato: Small, but again, good views.


Urasoe: Also near “Hacksaw Ridge,” Battle of Okinawa site. This site also is nearby MANY other important Ryukyu area historical sites, so be sure to explore! I am meaning to make a post about the historical trail in the area…

Goeku: Discussed a bit in another post; not much to see though.

Chibana: Not much to see here, and in a bit of disrepair. But there are some structures to see…


Agena: Some interesting things to explore.

Iha: Not too much of interest, but there are some structures.

Yamada (in Onna): I finally made it here, but there is honestly not much to see as far as castle ruins… the trail and surrounding area however is great!

Nago: Interesting park to walk around. Also a popular sakura-viewing spot.


**I will add more pictures soon!


Matsuyama 松山, part 2: Castle 成

Continuing from where I left off about Matsuyama, part 1

After Dogo onsen area, we set out for lunch and walked a bit aimlessly until we settled on an okonomiyaki place, which turns out to be a lovely find. We split a kimchi yaki-ramen and a Hiroshima style okonomiyaki with some beer. The owner ojiisan and customers were a bit amused by the gaijin coming inside (this was not exactly on the main path, but rather tucked behind some sketchy neighborhoods), and then being able to order in Japanese. Quite good, really.

Next it was time for sake (nihonshu) sampling! There is a place where you can (for a price) sample sake from all over the prefecture. The price is per glass, so not really so much as sample, as just a small glass. To be quite honest, I felt completely overwhelmed by the menu… so I plucked up my courage and asked in Japanese if he (the worker) could recommend 4 different sakes from Ehime prefecture, since I really do not know enough about the subtle differences of sake to decide. Luckily, he understood my dilemma, and I got the feeling this was actually quite normal for Japanese to ask for his recommendations, so he chose 2 sweet and 2 dry for us. I was relieved, as I wanted to try some, but again… the menu had probably over 50 different choices with not much description that I could properly understand (other than the very basic types and alcohol percentages). I would definitely recommend visiting this shop if you find yourself in Ehime, and try some of the local alcohol.

It was still fairly early, so we decided to go ahead and visit the castle since there was rain in the forecast for the following day (and good thing we did!). To get to the castle, you can walk up a steep trail or for 1020 yen round trip + castle tower entrance fee (entrance by itself is 510 yen), you can take either a chair lift or a ropeway car. My husband wanted to take the chair lift since it would be more exciting. The chair lift is continuous, so there is essentially no wait time to get on (the seats are individual, so no riding in twosies), while the ropeway leaves every 10 minutes, and has room for probably a dozen or so people in the cabin. The chair lift has no restraints, you just sit in the chair and hold on… I felt a little nervous, but it was fun and the view wonderful. At the top, you still have to hike a bit up to the castle no matter which mode of transport you chose.

The castle and grounds were really nice; the views on top of the tower were quite good. The tower was pretty interesting, lots of historical information. You must remove you shoes to enter the castle tower, and you can opt to wear rubber slippers. The stairs inside are very steep and narrow, just as a fair warning in case this might pose a problem. I almost slipped a few times.

After the castle, of course I need another snack so my husband and I split an iyokan 伊予柑(type of local orange citrus) soft serve by the chair lift/ropeway (which is CHEAPER than the one by the castle, only a few meters away!). It was delicious! I highly recommend trying this if you visit in warmer weather.

At this point, we head back to the room clean up and get ready for the next exciting adventure: the festival! To be continued in Part 3!

Again, a very small sampling of photos, for more visit: