If you’re going to come to Okinawa for a visit, you have to make it a point to get around and see the major castle sites. Tiny Okinawa boasts five castles that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and not one of them looks remotely like the one seen in the “Karate Kid.” The main castle site at Shuri resembles a miniature of the Forbidden City in Peking China and is where the Ryukyu kingdom was unified from three separate kingdoms into one. Also on the list are the ruins of Nakagusku, Nakijin, Katsuren, and Zakimi castles.
Four of the five were part of the central kingdom of Chuzan. Only the ruin of Nakijin, which was the seat of the northern kingdom of Hokuzan made the “A” list. Even less is known about the network of castles that once made up the southern kingdom of Nanzan. Perhaps this is in part because of the devastation wreaked on these sites as a result of the battle of Okinawa. This is where the most desperate fighting took place.
Of the sites that belonged to the southern kingdom of Nanzan, perhaps the site at Chinen is the best preserved. What little we know about it could hardly fill a single paragraph in a tourist brochure. It was the palatial home of Lord Chinen and most importantly, this is where wet rice cultivation was first introduced to Okinawa. The rest is pretty much inconsequential and remains a mystery lost to the ages.
The ruins of Chinen castle sit high on the bluff and offer visitors a fantastic panoramic view of the villages below and the coral reefs and beaches along the islands southeast pacific coastline. For visitors it’s a chance to take a step back into time for a glimpse of what life was like on Okinawa during the age of kings, princes and warlords.