Okinawa Castles

Okinawa Castles - Shurijo.

Shuri Castle – One of the most famous castles in Okinawa.

Okinawa, formerly known as the Ryukyu Kingdom, existed as a separate and independent nation-state from Japan. The Kagoshima Domain from the Japanese mainland invaded these islands in 1609 and shortly thereafter the Ryukyu Kingdom became a tribute state to Japan, where the Ryukyu Royal Family continued running the territory from their headquarters in the legendary Shuri Castle.

It wouldn’t be until 1879 when the Ryukyu Islands officially became a part of Japan as the Okinawa Prefecture. And it’s because of this different culture, that the castles in Okinawa look considerably different from those on the Japanese mainland. Many of these castles are in a state of ruin mostly from old age, earthquakes, and destruction caused by the Battle of Okinawa in World War 2. Nevertheless, these castles and their ruins still stand to this day. Many have become UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and if you’re interested in visiting these incredible historic places then check out these Okinawa Castles you can visit.

Topics Covered

  • The Nakijin Castle Ruins
  • The Nakagusuku Castle Ruins
  • Shuri Castle
  • The Zakimi Castle Ruins
  • Chibana Castle
  • The Katsuren Castle Ruins

The Nakijin Castle Ruins

The Nakijin Castle Ruins in Okinawa.
Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas or alternatively © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas, Nakijin Okinawa Japan Nakikjin-Castle-01, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Nakijin Castle stands in ruins on the Motobu Peninsula where it was built in 1200. The site is surrounded by a beautiful forest and right next to it is a place that you most definitely will want to check out – Nakijin Village History and Culture Center. It’s a museum where you can check out various things that were found on the site including important documents, coins, and pottery of Chinese origin.
Address5101 Imadomari, Nakijin, Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-0428, Japan
Phone+81 980-56-4400
Business Hours08:00AM to 18:00PM
Closed DatesOpen 7 days a week
Admission Fee400 yen ($4.00 US)

The Nakagusuku Castle Ruins

The Nakagusuku Castle Ruins in Okinawa.
The Nakagusuku Castle Ruins in Okinawa.

Nakagusuku Castle was once divided up into different citadels, which you can still make out today. The well-preserved ruins sit in the middle of Okinawa Honto and have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
Address503 Ogusuku, Kitanakagusuku, Nakagami District, Okinawa 901-2314, Japan
Phone+81 98-935-5719
Business Hours08:30AM to 18:00PM
Closed DatesOpen 7 days a week
Admission Fee400 yen ($4.00 US)

Shuri Castle

The legendary Shurijo Castle in Okinawa, Japan.
The legendary Shurijo Castle in Okinawa, Japan.

Shuri is undoubtedly the most famous castle in Okinawa because it served as the imperial household and seat of power of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It fell into disrepair after Okinawa officially became a part of Japan, only to be destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa and had to be rebuilt. The castle was built in the 14th century in Naha City, burned down multiple times since World War 2, and the latest fire destroyed it in October 2019. Today, the main buildings lie in ruins and are therefore off-limits to tourists until rebuilding is complete in 2026. In the meantime, visitors can tour the castle park, Sonohyan-utaki stone gates, and the Shikinaen Garden, which sits just under a mile away.
Address1 Chome-2 Shurikinjocho, Naha, Okinawa 903-0815, Japan
Phone+81 98-886-2020
Business Hours08:00AM to 19:30PM
Closed DatesOpen 7 days a week
Admission FeeFree

The Zakimi Castle Ruins

The Zakimi Castle Ruins in Okinawa.
Almighty Franklinstein, Front courtyard area (3875907542), CC BY-SA 2.0

Zakimi Castle was built as a watchtower fortress for the northern part of Okinawa Island during the 15th century. Much of it was built with stones taken from another nearby castle – Yamada castle. Japanese soldiers used the site as a machine gun nest during World War 2 and later by the US forces as a radar station. Visitors can enjoy the castle grounds and stone walls. Also, next door is the Yuntanza Museum, which doesn’t focus on Zakimi Castle, but rather on the history and art of the local population. It’s well worth a visit.
Address708-6 Zakimi, 読谷村 Yomitan, Nakagami District, Okinawa 904-0301, Japan
Phone+81 98-958-3141
Business HoursAlways Open
Closed DatesOpen 7 days a week
Admission FeeFree

Chibana Castle

Chibana Castle, also known as Goeku Castle, lies on a hilltop in complete ruins, and visiting here requires you to walk along various walkways in a jungle setting – so wear comfortable hiking shoes. The castle is located in the Chibana district of Okinawa City and was originally the home of a local lord. (Website is in Japanese only)
Address5 Chome-12 Chibana, Okinawa, 904-2143, Japan
Phone+81 98-932-6882
Business HoursAlways Open
Closed DatesOpen 7 days a week
Admission FeeFree

The Katsuren Castle Ruins

The Katsuren Castle Ruins in Okinawa.
kanegen, Katsuren Castle ruins, CC BY 2.0

Not much remains of Katsuren Castle today other than walkways, foundations, and beautiful stone walls. The structure sits perched on top of a steep hill that provides stunning views of the surrounding Katsuren Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean.

Katsuren was home to Lord Amawari. He suffered from ill-health as a child and as a result, his parents abandoned him in the wilderness to die. However, he survived and returned to kill the previous lord of the castle and took it over. He later died after a failed attempt of taking over Shuri Castle. Interestingly, in 2016, old Roman and Ottoman Empire (formerly Germany) coins were found on the site – the first and only time such coins were ever found on Japanese soil.
Address3908 Katsurenhaebaru, Uruma, Okinawa 904-2311, Japan
Phone+81 98-978-7373
Business HoursAlways Open
Closed DatesOpen 7 days a week
Admission FeeFree

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