In Japan, on November 3rd is “Culture Day,” a national public holiday.
In our village, there was a culture celebration held the following weekend. Various village products were promoted, and people did various types of performances at the local auditorium. Not just our village, many many surrounding towns and villages also held culture festivities similar to this one the same weekend, so if you live in Okinawa be sure to seek them out this time of year.
We did not go see all of them (the program was several hours long), but we did go see the final act, a kumiodori 組踊 (traditional Ryukyu musical play/dance) put on by the local village people. The piece they enacted was the age old story of Lord Gosamaru 護佐丸; Lord Amawari’s betrayal, Lord Gosamaru’s suicide, and his son’s revenge. The performance is in uchinaaguchi うちなーぐち (Okinawan language), so it is a little difficult to understand all the dialog/singing. But it was fun and interesting nonetheless. Another chance to immerse ourselves in local culture and get to know our neighbors.
We also ate little taiyaki たい焼き in the shape of Gosamaru before the performance, sold at one of the small stands as part of the culture celebration.
Recently I went to a “secret” lookout point while wandering around to find Lord Gosamaru’s tomb. It is not really a secret, but it is not well-known. Probably because it is actually under construction and not all the way opened yet… ?!
To explain: I was headed to Gosamaru’s grave and I noticed on the map a place called 台グスク dai-gusuku. When I looked for information before heading out, it mostly seemed that nothing much was there anymore except for some vegetation-covered walls, which were just places of worship surrounded by stones, and if you stood along the edge, you could see over the town and to the ocean. All of the pictures showed a simple narrow path and some overgrown grasses. It was perhaps part of the Nakagusku-jo residence in some capacity back in the Ryukyu Kingdom era; possibly as temporary quarters for Lord Gosamaru until he moved into Nakasuguku-jo from Zakimi-jo or maybe where his brother lived, no one is certain from the information I gathered from some Japanese websites.
So, as I ascended the hill from after visiting Gosamaru’s tomb (just around the corner), I decided to take the small path that led to this mystery place. It is closed off to cars as there is a chain across the path to block cars, but it is easy to walk around and there are no signs saying “entrance prohibited” 「入場禁止」 as it is a public walking path. I walked along the worn-down path for a bit, until I saw a brand new structure… a ramp, some stairs, all leading to an observation platform! This was indeed a surprise. The bottom ramp was taped off (I assume because the side railings were not installed in some areas), so I didn’t push my luck and enter it. Instead I kept walking along the path that was parallel to the ramp and stairs. At the top of the path, there was a clearing and you could overlook the town… I could see over towards my house! Since there was no tape blocking off the very top platform, I went ahead and took a peek standing on the new platform, since the view was a little bit better with the extra few feet in height. Amazing! What a view, and well worth the short walk.
Hopefully they “officially” open this viewing platform soon. The structure looked almost complete and was structurally sound (just use common sense). It is fine to enter the path and walk up to the observation area since it is public. However, please be considerate and quiet because there are family graves close by– we walked by 2 families cleaning the graves in the area just next to the path up.
**UPDATE: it is not opened yet, but they have paved the path walking up to it and most of the construction looks pretty complete. I expect this will be officially opened soon!
If you for some reason are interested in Ryukyu history, you can also walk to Gosamaru’s tomb 護佐丸の墓 which is a little further down from the main road. It is actually right below you when you stand on dai-gusuku, but you need to go back out to the road, around the corner, and there is a path with some stairs leading up. Gosamaru chose a pretty nice spot for his tomb. Overall, it is not a terribly interesting historical site, but I figured as a town resident I ought to see it at least once.