Pretty soon after we arrived on island, Yoni and I visited Shuri Castle. One of the most heralded tourist sites of Okinawa, Shuri Castle was the seat of the Ryuku monarchy and was originally built, it’s thought, in the early 14th century. The most recent iteration of the castle was almost completely destroyed during WWII, and was rebuilt in the early 1990s. Sounds interesting, right? Unfortunately, Yoni and I didn’t think so.
At first, I wasn’t sure why we both had such a distinctly negative reaction to Shuri Castle. Maybe because we had to take our shoes off and carry them around in a plastic bag? No, that was just funny.
We’ve talked about it a lot since then, and I’ve finally decided that it was a simple case of confused expectations. Yoni and I were expecting castle ruins (that’s how it had been described to us), and instead we were confronted with a completely reconstructed and vaguely theme-park-feeling Japanese castle, complete with roped-in walkways. It also occurred to both of us that most people on Okinawa haven’t spent time exploring ruins in Israel, and therefore don’t have the same expectations that we do when it comes to ancient sites.
All of that is to say – last weekend, we visited some castle ruins that were, actually, ruins! Katsuren Castle was home to many a local noble (Okinawa’s own Downton?), but it’s “golden age” was in the mid-15th century when Lord Amawari lived there. There was an English pamphlet, but honestly, I didn’t absorb much of the history. It was a beautiful (if super hot) day, and the scenery was beautiful, so I wasn’t complaining.