It is interesting how I got my first castle visit in the most unexpected place – Okinawa. I would never have thought some parts of Japan offer more than shrines. Thanks to my friend Elaine who invited me for an island excursion on a spring day. Zakimi Castle is not your ordinary castle so brace yourself. It was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in November 2000.
The climb to the castle is made easy by the beautiful scenery. The village surrounding the site has a very rustic feeling reminding you of how life was back then. Calm and simple.
Before Okinawa lost its sovereignty and became part of the shogunate system of Japan, it was ruled by regional kingdom chieftains called the Aji. Each kingdom is in prosperous trading relation with the neighboring Asian countries and as each struggle for political power, they started building fortresses and castles called Gusuku. Zakimi castle was built by Gosamaru who was said to be a warrior who helped unify the different conflicting kingdoms of Okinawa and as a reward, he became the Lord of Zakimi Castle. Unlike other Okinawan castles which are built on limestone, this castle is built on a red clay.
A stone arched entrances with a keystone is a unique feature of Zakimi castle not found anywhere else. Legend says that Gosamaru had the stones from his former castle in Yamada moved one by one to Zakimi. He has the castle built on a hill, 120 meters above sea level which gives one a good elevated view.
There is also a small museum just before you approach the stairs leading to the castle entrance. It does not feature a lot of the castle ruin but of Okinawan living and it is worth a check.
And just to give you an idea of how much care they put into preserving the castle ruin, here is :
Zakimi castle is not my favorite but it surely was my first and it was amazing. With its rich history and an architecture that will bring you back in time, Yomitan village must be very proud of their very own treasure and it is a must for a visit.
Check on Google Street View below for an additional information and perspective on Zakimi Castle: