Kochi gusuku is another small castle ruins site that I came across, like Tanabaru gusuku, also located in Nishihara. Again, not really interesting enough to make it onto the original post about the gusuku ruins in Okinawa, but a nice hidden location on top of a hill with a view. Mostly just another attempt at me escaping the ennui of lab work and trying to get some fresh air this summer.
Kochi gusuku also located off a back road, which you may suspect is not actually a road, but I promise you it is indeed the road to reach this castle ruins. It is narrow, and turns a little bumpy. When you reach the top, it is mostly just an open looking field.
There are some remains of stones, and if you walk up to the highest point, you will see w place of worship. Walking around the paths you can also see some gaa ガー (wells). Many places were overgrown, but it was clear enough to see the view at least. There was even a placard in both English and Japanese describing some of the history here (photo below where you can read the interesting “tidbits”).
I didn’t get the same eerie sense as I did at Tanabaru gusuku ruins, thankfully. But oddly enough, at this lookout on an off-beaten path seemingly in the middle of nowhere there were some ojiisans hanging out in their cars…
グスク gusuku: in Japanese, it is actually 城 (shiro), meaning “castle.” Though I have recently learned that the entomology of the word “gusuku” is controversial, and could have come about several ways. Anyway, if you see the word “gusuku” in Okinawa, it typically refers to a stone castle or fortress type structure (in ruins these days), surrounded by stone walls. The famous ones remain somewhat intact whereas these smaller ones rarely have anything but traces of stones and foundations.
In Okinawa, most of these gusuku are just the ruins. I previously made a post about some of the more common gusuku ruins sites. Tanabaru gusuku, however, is not well known and quite hidden away in Nishihara. Thought to be honest, there is not much to see.
On a whim, I decided to follow the map to where these supposed ruins were near to the university. So I got in my car and followed the directions… I started to doubt that the GPS was taking me to the right location. The last road I turned onto was not really much of a road, even for Okinawa. I started to feel a bit concerned.
But then… ! I seemingly reached a fielded area and a sign post! Some success already. Apparently, GoogleMaps was correct after all. As to where to park… well… it is an empty field, so just pull over I suppose is fine.
The were only very few trace remains of the gusuku itself, and following the path I was able to find a place of worship. The location was high on top of a hill, but was fairly overgrown, so the view was a little bit difficult to see. To be honest though… this place had a strange feel, and I am not normally superstitious. There were a few tombs around, but that is common in Okinawa… it had sort of an abandoned feel to it I guess (despite the signpost proudly proclaiming the site name looking new). I think there may be rumor of a ghost story in this location, but I am not sure yet. I will update if I find it.
It seems that some excavations of the ruins (finding items like pottery, etc.) have been done in the past according to the Nishihara town website. It originally was built by the brother of one of the lords, as a fortification. During and after the war, many of the stones were removed for quarry to be reused elsewhere, so there is very little remaining of walls and foundations that can be observed. If I have time, I may come back and do some more exploring of the area. I read on a Japanese site that there is some sort of trail nearby.
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.
*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.
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…