Nishihara Village Wartime Underground Shelter & Nishihara War Memorial Tower

Today, on a more solemn topic, I will introduce 2 sites I happened to pass by today in Nishihara-cho. Both sites are within a very short walking distance of each other. Park at the very small and narrow lot in front of the second site next to the Nishihara town office.

The first site is at the intersection just a few meters of town office. It is the Nishihara Village Wartime Underground Shelter 旧西原村役場壕跡, which has become a town cultural property. The underground shelter is a manmade limestone cave. While you cannot enter it, you can peek inside and see most of it.

There is a sign explaining in English. Briefly I will describe (or just read the photo below): In June of 1944 the war situation became increasingly severe, so Nishihara Village Hall local residents to dig an underground air-raid shelter. Inside, a 1-ton safe was kept to store important documents such as family registry, land register, public money, official seals, cash register, wartime bonds etc. It is one of the few artifacts left from the war and a reminder of the tragedy of war.


The second site (this is the site you should park in front of!) is on the other side of the town office, the Nishihara Tower 西原の塔. This is a war memorial tower. It is also called 忠魂碑 Chuukonhi, a memorial monument for those that died in battle.

The tower was originally built as a dedication to those that died during WWI, “the Chinese Incident” (Second Sino-Japanese War), and the Russo-Japanese war.

It was destroyed in Battle of Okinawa (like most other things). After reconstruction, a pillar of remembrance was added for those that died during WWII and the Battle of Okinawa. Every October, a service is held to pray for peace and to pray for the deceased.

You will likely see origami cranes held together by strings, called senbazuru” 千羽鶴 which means 1000 cranes in Japanese. These are a symbol for hope and healing; . Common site at war memorials.

There are various pillars, monuments, walls with the names (and ages) of the many residents who died during these tragic times. About half of the village residents died in the Battle of Okinawa. There are also some images of bodhisattva, and some dedications to various infantry, battalions, etc.

address (park your car here!):



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!