Last Wednesday, we took our sunburt selves out of the hotel area via a rented car and off to Shurijo-koen, a castle left from the Edo period, and later to Ryukyu-mura, or Ryukyu Village.

The castle was nice and a good walk-around, but nothing too exceptional; not to sound like a snob, but most Japanese castles begin to look alike after a while and this was no exception.  Having said that, it is well maintained and has English translations that, while not perfect, are easily understandable.  We were there on a bright, sunny day and enjoyed walking around the grounds, especially the lookouts from the walls, where you could look down on Naha City all around the castle.

Ryukyu-mura, on the other hand, was a lot of fun in that way that is specially designed for tourists.  Actors put on several shows, singing traditional songs and performing dances and encouaraging the crowd to join in.  (Ryukyu is the name of the islands from when they were an independant nation, instead of a part of Japan, although even that is in some dispute.  The Chinese claim that the nation of Ryukyu was a subservient nation to China, while the Okinawans maintain that Ryukyu was completely independent, only maintaining strong trading ties to China.)  It was a good way to spend an afternoon.

What grabbed my attention at both the castle and the village, though, were the Siisa (See-saw) Guardians.  Alternately described as dogs or lions, they fill the same roles as Fu dogs in China and the Koma-inu on the main islands of Japan.  There were several examples of the guardians in Shurijo Castle and on the roofs of many of the buildings in Ryukyu-mura.  The guardians have several variant designs and meanings, but I took a liking to them and spent most of the day scheming on how to get a pair home before deciding that I couldn’t afford any. 

Instead, I decided to wait until we get a house, and then I’ll get a pair to go on the roof.  Maybe a pair like the ones pictured above.  Maybe.

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