Sometimes, if I really think about it, I remember I’m on an island on the other side of the world and start to panic. Luckily I haven’t had that problem too many times. There is so much to look at and do here that my brain hasn’t had much time to dwell on “what if’s”.
Ben doesn’t like to drive if he doesn’t have to. It’s always been that way and I don’t mind most of the time. It can be a bit overwhelming while driving here. The cramped and often monotonous colored cement buildings can blur together and cause missed turns. You have to keep vigilant because they don’t believe in turn lanes here. They also stop on any section of road they choose. It doesn’t matter if it’s multiple lanes or one, back road or main highway. So something that frequently happens is someone is stopped on the left side of the road (remember to reverse the way you think of driving) to pop into the corner store and someone else is stopped next to them to make a right hand turn across traffic. They leave enough room for the rest of traffic to bottle neck into a makeshift lane but not without being extremely aware of your surroundings. This used to cause me great anxiety. Now that we’ve been here a while and I’m learning the roads and quirks of life here, I don’t mind. Unless I’m a passenger, then all bets are off.
On weekends, if it’s not typhoon status, we venture out to be tourists and get better acquainted with this wonderful island. We’ve made a trip down to Kokusai Street in Naha, the Churaumi Aquarium in Nago, some beaches, and a castle ruins. I forgot to take pictures of Kokusai Street. It was raining at Ocean Park so while I have plenty of pictures of fish, I have none of the buildings of surrounding area. A commands all of our attention at the beaches. But the stars aligned for our castle ruins trip. I not only remembered the camera but used it! Shocking, I know.
Katsuren Castle sits a few hundred feet up on a small peninsula on the eastern side of the island. There is parking and a visitor center located on Hwy 16 at the bottom of the hill. Parking is free and the visitors center has restrooms, maps, information plaques, pottery displays, and a small store with snacks. The maps and all plaques are in Japanese and English. You’ll have to cross the street to begin trekking up the hill. It is not a hard climb but definitely not wheelchair friendly. Most of the walkway is paved or new wooden steps over worn rock. A did most of the steps herself except for the few places where the original stone steps were. These were uneven and sloped so we opted to hold her. I made it to the top in cheap flip flops. I would not do this again but it is possible.
At it’s prime in the 15th century, Katusuren Castle was held by Amawari. From what I can tell he was ambitious and captured Nakagusuku Castle which sits south across the bay. He had his eyes set on taking Shuri Castle, the seat of power for the Ryukyu Islands but was stopped by the king who destroyed him and Katsuren Castle. There is a plaque in the visitor center that says the King who sat at Shuri Castle gave Amawari his daughter to wed. Maybe he was trying to prevent a war? I can’t find much info yet but I’m going to dig into it. The pottery found suggests that this castle was prosperous as it did trade with China and other southeast Asian countries. Roman coins have even been discovered. Although archaeologists believe they were passed by China rather than direct contact with the west.
I completely forgot to mention Katsuren Castle is a World Heritage Site! Ok, enough with the nerdy history stuff. Ill add photos 🙂