Jul 10, 2008


And another piece of Okinawan culture and history.

I don't know how this didn't come up yet, but a very distinctive feature in Okinawa is the "Shisa" – guardian lion-dogs or something like that.

You can see them almost in every entrance to a shop, house, public building etc. Basically they come in pairs, a female Shisa and male Shisa, one with his mouth open, and the other one closed (I think the male is with the open mouth).

Here are a few examples:

This is me next to one, and Iris next to the other:

Obviously, when you have such an iconic figure, people start making it in various ways and shapes:

And our personal favorite, Mongo Shisa:

Now to our trip on last Saturday – Shuri Castle.

Up to the 19th centaury, Okinawa was an independent kingdom, called the Ryukyu Kingdom. It sent tribute to the Chinese emperor, but had its own culture and legacy.

On 1609, a leader of a southern clan in Japan – the Satsuma clan, conquered the Ryukyu Kingdom, but didn't officially annexed it to Japan. He used the kingdom as a trade route to the outer world, as Japan had a very strict "no international relations" policy. After the Meiji Restoration on 1868, Japan annexed Okinawa officially.

As you can see, Okinawa had a big influence from both China and Japan, always trying to survive between two much larger kingdoms. This affected its culture, creating a unique mixture of both, in addition to it's own legacy.

So… Shuri Castle was the place where the Ryukyu King set, where he ruled from, etc.

Sadly, it was destroyed in WWII, so every thing is reconstructed, but they did a really good job.

At the tour we found out that on every interesting site in the castle, they have a stamp with its picture, and they have a cool sheet, which they put the stamps on it. Very cute.

Also, we saw an old couple, that decided to wear THE SAME SHIRT!! Like two 5 years old brother and sister. It was ridiculous. But also KAWAII (cute in Japanese) I suppose.

So, here we are in front of the Shurei-mon - the castle gate. It is very famous - it is the picture on the 2000 Yen bill - it represents Okinawa. Also, for the Karatekas among the readers - this is the symbol on the Shureido Karate-gi.

By the way, as you can see, Iris started to do like the Japaese women, and hangs around with a sun umbrella...

Some pics from the castle grounds (Notice the Shisa):

A bell and I:

This is the palace itself:

And this is the man who took our picture - he, like all other employees of the place, wears traditional Ryukyu clothes:

The royal throne:

And crown:

And royal water taps.... kidding, it is in the bathroom... but it is cool:

That is it for today,


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