Urasoe Castle was built in the 13th century as a royal residence during the reign of King Eiso (1260-1299). It was expanded in the late 14th century during the reign of King Satsuto (1321-1396). Urasoe Castle was the royal castle for the entire Ryukyu Islands (present day Okinawa). Even during the Sanzan Era, when Ryukyu split into the Hokuzan, Chuzan, and Nanzan Kingdoms, Urasoe Castle was still the main castle for the Chuzan Kingdom. After Sho Hashi conquered Urasoe Castle in 1406 and became the King of the Chuzan Kingdom, the royal castle was moved from Urasoe Castle to Shuri Castle. Urasoe Castle was attacked and burnt down by the invading Satsuma army in 1609.
Urasoe Youdore, a royal tomb for early Ryukyuan kings, is believed to have been built by King Eiso between 1265 to 1274. It is located directly below the north side of Urasoe Castle. King Sho Nei renovated the tomb in 1620 and was buried there after his death.
During the Battle of Okinawa, Urasoe Castle Ruin was the site of some fierce fighting between the American 307th Infantry Regiment and the Japanese 63rd Independent Mixed Brigade between late April and early May 1945. The hill on which the castle ruin is located became known as the Maeda Escarpment(前田高地) to the Japanese defenders and Hacksaw Ridge to the Americans. Urasoe Youdore was also heavily damaged during WWII. It was restored between 1996 and 2005.
For this castle profile, I have included both the Urasoe Youdore and Urasoe Castle because even though they are two distinct places with different functions, they form an integral whole for this national historic site.
Urasoe Castle is one of the three biggest castles in Okinawa, in the same size category as Nakajin Castle and Shuri Castle. However, it will seem to be smaller in comparison when you visit it because portions of the Urasoe Castle are off-limits or inaccessible because it is overgrown.
There is also a network of tunnels dug during WWII to shelter Japanese soldiers and civilians. The entrances to some of these tunnels have bilingual signs (English/Japanese) in front of them, but they are fenced off and closed to visitors.
This castle ruin is a short walk, around 7 to 8 minutes, from the Urasoemaeda Station (Yui Monorail). Be sure to stop by the Urasoe Park South Entrance Management Office (concrete building), where there is an informative model of Urasoe Castle Ruin. It will give you a better idea of the original castle’s layout before you visit it.
There is also the Urasoe Gusuku and Youdore Museum, a few hundred metres walk from the castle ruin in the direction of Urasoe Park. It has a lot of information (mainly in Japanese) about the castle and royal tomb including a replica of the tomb’s interior at Urasoe Youdore. Entry to the museum costs 100 yen.
RaymondW wrote this castle profile and contributed all the photos.
|National Historic Site
|Pre Edo Period
|Yui Monorail (Urasoemaeda Station) then 8 minutes walk
|Free for the castle ruin, 100yen for the Urasoe Gusuku and Youdore Museum
|1 to 2 hours
|Urasoe City, Okinawa Prefecture
|26° 14' 51.22" N, 127° 43' 54.23" E
|Added to Jcastle
|Admin Year Visited