Urasoe Castle

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Urasoe Castle 100.jpg

History

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.


Visit Notes

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.


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Gallery
  • Urasoe Castle and Youdore
  • Restored stone paved road
  • Stone wall remnants
  • restored stone wall
  • Deeg Gama (Tokashikidake Utaki)
  • restored stone wall
  • restored stone walls and WWII tunnel
  • Urasoe Youdore below
  • Urasoe Youdore
  • Urasoe Youdore
  • Royal tombs
  • Urasoe Castle Model
  • Stone wall south side
  • Site of recent archaeological excavation
  • Overgrown Outer Southern Baileys


Castle Profile
English Name Urasoe Castle
Japanese Name 浦添城
Founder King Eiso
Year Founded 13th century
Castle Type Hilltop
Castle Condition Ruins only
Designations National Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Yui Monorail (Urasoemaeda Station) then 8 minutes walk
Visitor Information Free for the castle ruin, 100yen for the Urasoe Gusuku and Youdore Museum
Time Required 1 to 2 hours
Location Urasoe City, Okinawa Prefecture
Coordinates 26° 14' 51.22" N, 127° 43' 54.23" E
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Admin
Added to Jcastle 2022
Contributor RaymondW
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed


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(one vote)
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RaymondWHatamoto

8 months ago
Score 1++
I have just added three more photos to this castle profile from my visit a couple of weeks ago. The first photo shows part of a stone wall on the south side which were found in 2017 when they excavated that portion of the castle ruin. The second photo shows the site of some archaeological excavation done prior to Golden Week (early May) in 2022 and sometime after my second visit at the end of 2021. The last photo is something I had completely ignored on my previous two visits, the outer southern baileys of the castle. They are heavily overgrown, but there are a few baileys there below all that verdant carpet of vines and weeds. I saw a photo of another model of Urasoe Castle at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum which showed a grander Urasoe Castle with more stone walls and baileys than the model shown here on this castle profile.
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RaymondWHatamoto

8 months ago
Score 0++
On my previous visit to this gusuku at the end of 2021, I had run out of battery for my Lumix camera, so I ended up taking some photos using my smart phone. Naturally, the quality of the photos was not as good, so I went back to re-take photos of some extant stone wall remnants in early May. I was surprised to find that there had been some additional archaeological excavations, unearthing what appeared to be even more stone wall foundations. I’ve been to this castle ruin three times, and each time I am finding something new to enjoy.