When you wander among the majestic buildings that make up Shuri Castle in Okinawa, you might feel as if you have been transported deep into the past. However, these lovingly restored buildings are only decades old.
Nonetheless, they are steeped in history and many features of the castle are older than the recent renovations. There is much to see in and around the castle complex, from grand architecture to the exhibits inside the museums.
Shuri Castle is a five-minute bus ride (or a 15-20-minute walk) from Shuri Station on the Okinawa Monorail.
It can also be reached by bus from central Naha. Take the number one bus and get off at Shurijo Koen Iriguchi.
Shuri Ryusen is a short walk from Shuri Castle, on Shuriyamagawacho, and is open from 9am-6pm seven days a week.
Shuri was the capital of Okinawa until the 1870s. It is now part of Naha, the new capital
Shuri Castle is one of four castles designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites
The striking red tiles of the castle are a hallmark of Okinawa, and very different from castles elsewhere in Japan
The castle was built in the 13th century by Shunbajunki, the second king of Chuzan, and it was to play a key part in many of the struggles in the centuries that followed.
Shuri Castle has been destroyed many times over the centuries, each time rising again from the ashes. Most recently, the castle was bombed in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa and the castle you see before you today was reconstructed in 1992.
The castle stands on top of a hill, providing a commanding view of Naha. The interior of the main building has been restored in its original style, while the North and South Halls have modern museums inside. Check out the exhibits, which bring to life the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Don't miss out on a visit to Shurei-mon Gate - originally built in the early 16th century by King Sho Sei. It was used for ceremonial entrances to the castle, and you can't help but feel regal as you walk beneath the seven-meter high red-tiled roof. The gate, like the castle, has been destroyed many times and was last rebuilt in 1958.
To commemorate the 28th G8 summit, which was held in Okinawa, a 2000 yen note was specially printed, featuring a picture of Shurei-mon Gate. Incidentally, the word shurei is often confused with Shuri, but it is actually a Chinese word meaning "eternal courtesy".