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.
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…
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.
Nago: Interesting park to walk around. Also a popular sakura-viewing spot.
**I will add more pictures soon!