It was a Sunday when I picked up my rental car in Naha and I first attended a church service before doing some sightseeing on my drive northwards through Okinawa. In the early afternoon I stopped at the ruins of Nakagusuku Castle, which is one of several castle ruins that you can find on the island. Construction of Nakagusuku Castle is thought to have begun in the second half of the 1300s and its most famous resident was a talented military commander named Gosamaru who was a hero of Okinawa’s unification wars. The parking lot for the castle is located by the castle’s exit so there are golf carts that drive visitors around to the far end where the tour route begins.
The golf cart dropped me off at an open field next the castle. There are few caves that have been carved into the cliffside below the castle and it is thought that this area was home to blacksmiths and other civilians who were employed by the castle’s lord. From here there’s also a view of Nakagusuku Bay but there are better views later in the tour route.
I next hiked up to the castle and passed through the main gate. Nakagusuku Castle has multiple enclosures inside its walls and the areas I walked through served several purposes including administrative centers and spots for worship. Although the castle was damaged in WW2 and its wooden structures were destroyed, the walls are still largely intact and it is one of the best-preserved castles on Okinawa.
From up on the walls you can also get a better view of Nakagusuku Bay and the surrounding area.
The enclosures towards the end of the tour route are thought to be where the castle’s soldiers lived and trained. One of the things that stood out to me while exploring Nakagusuku Castle was how the walls were curved and wavy rather than straight. The blocks of limestone that were used for the walls were all carefully cut so that they interlock with each other and do not require any mortar or cement to hold them together. Apparently Commodore Perry, the American naval commander whose squadron forced Japan to reopen to the world, visited Nakagusuku Castle and was very impressed by its architecture.
Before leaving the castle I went down a stone staircase to the bottom of an old well. It’s called Ufugaa, which literally translates to “big well.” The well is dry these days but 400 years ago it would have supplied water to the castle’s occupants.
After visiting the well I reached the end of the tour route and exited the castle. On the way back to the parking lot there’s a small model of the castle that gives you a better idea of how the whole thing looks. The area east of the castle is an open space and it looks like it is used for outdoor performances. It didn’t seem like any events were going to be hosted there in the near future but I can image that it would pretty cool to have a theatrical performance here with the castle in the background.
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