Cultural Properties of Urasoe

1. Urasoe Shell Mound

These ruins are located above Iso Tunnel on Route 330 and are from the Shell Mound Period about 3,000 years ago. During excavations, Ichiki type earthenware from Kyushu was uncovered which evidences the exchanges between Kyushu and the Ryukyu Islands in the Jomon Period (till 200 BC). Pit dwellings were discovered on the cliff above and below it is the shell mound. 

2. Terabu no Gama Cave

Called locally Tirangama and is written with the Chinese characters meaning the "temple cave". It is located halfway up a limestone cliff overlooking the mouth of the Makiminato River. This is the cave where Shunten and his mother are said to have waited for the return of Tametomo Minamoto. Shunten later went on to become king. At present it has become a sacred area in Makiminato, and there is a place for prayer called "Makiminato no Ben" in the cave.

3. Iso-no-Takauhaka Tomb

The father of King Eiso, Eso Yosono-nushi, and three other Aji chieftains are believed to rest in this tomb. Inside, there are enshrined three funerary urns made of stone and ceramic. The tomb is located halfway up a limestone cliff and is enclosed in stone. The tomb has an arch that is in a very ancient style. It is on top of Iso Tunnel along Route 330. 

4. Eiso Gusuku Castle

This gusuku castle is located inside of Iso Koen Park and is said to have been the residence of King Eiso. The rough stone walls are covered in trees and there is an old cobbled stairway. The site has become a sacred precinct in the Aza-Iso area. Visitors can experience the true atmosphere of an ancient Okinawan castle here. In Iso Koen Park an old Omoro ballad praising King Eiso is inscribed in stone on a monument. 

5. Urasoe Yodore Royal Mausoleum

The royal mausoleum is located at the base of a cliff on the north side of Urasoe Castle. First built in the 13th century by King Eiso, the tomb was enlarged by King Sho Nei in 1620. Before WWII there was a tunnel called Kurashinujo (dark gate) that passed through the arch to the mausoleum garden. The tomb was enclosed in a high stone wall that gave it a solemn air but this was destroyed in the battles of WWII. At present excavation surveys are being conducted with the aim of reconstruction. 

6. Urasoe Castle Ruins

This castle was constructed in the 13th century to be the residence for the kings of the central Chuzan Kingdom. This historic site is the center of Urasoe Gusuku. The castle was destroyed by Sho Hashi in the beginning of the 15th century when he took over the kingdom and moved its capital to Shuri. Urasoe Gusuku was left abandoned for a while. In the 16th century it again became residence to the Urasoe Aji chieftain but was burned and destroyed in the Shimazu clan invasion of the Ryukyus in 1609. 


7.Stele in front of Urasoe Castle Ruins

This stone tablet was erected within the castle grounds to commemorate the construction of the roadway between Shuri and Urasoe Gusuku, a project of King Sho Nei. On the tablet is written that under royal command the strength of the local people made possible the construction of the road and the rainbow bridge that crosses the river. The stele was completely destroyed in WWII and reconstructed in 1999. From this point the tomb of Tamagusuku Chokun, Shurijo Castle and the Benkedake Hills can be seen in the distance. 

8. Kyozuka Scripture Mound Stele

In ancient times a monster frightened travelers on the road from Urasoe to Shuri. To banish this monster the Shingon Priest Nishushonin wrote Buddhist scriptures on pebbles and buried them here and had a stele inscribed with the words "Kongomine" (diamond peak). Scripture is referred to as Chochika in Okinawan. When earthquakes occur it is believed that if a person chants out "Chochika, Chochika" they would not incur any damage.

9. Ahachabashi Bridge and Cobblestone Road

The bridge is an arched stone bridge upstream of Owan-gawa River and goes across the water where it is known as Abuchiraga river. It originally consisted of the south and north bridges, but only the northern one, with its cobblestone road, has been reconstructed. The bridge and road were first constructed during the reign of King Sho Nei to connect Shuri with Urasoe Gusuku. It has been repaired numerous times since then. Near the bridge is the Akazaraga river.

10. Toyama Cobblestone Road
photo This was part of a roadway that extended from Shuri through Urasoe and on to Ginowan during the Ryukyu Kingdom Period. It is in Aza Toyama. The roadway is 4.5m wide and approximately 400m long and stretches up the slope in the valley of the Makiminato-gawa River. The Toyama-bashi Bridge, stretching across the Makiminato-gawa, was originally constructed of wood but was repaired with stone during the Taisho Period (1912-1926) and after WWII. Walking along the stone cobbles and viewing the surrounding forest and farmland brings back the atmosphere of ancient times. 
11. The Tomb of Tamagusku Chokun

Tamagusuku Chokun was the creator of the performance art Kumi-odori, the national theater of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Chokun was born in 1684 as the son of the lord of Tamagusuku Magiri district. He showed genius at an early age and was given the job of magistrate of entertainments at the royal court. Chokun created the Kumi-odori, a theatrical performance art, for the entertainments presented to the Chinese investiture envoys who came to the Ryukyus to legitimatize the succession of the king. This style of tomb, known as Kamekobaka (turtle shell tomb), was made in the latter half of the 18th century. It is a rather rare type of tomb construction.

12. Nishibaru Agari-Ga Spring

This is a spring located at the foot of a cliff on the north side of a sacred hilly area in Aza Nishibaru. Another name for it is Ubuga, and it is a sacred place for area residents. There is a semi-circular and square shaped basin and a piled stone Hinpun barrier wall. The structure of the present area was built 300 years ago and is based on the first, constructed some 600 years ago. Even today there is a wealth of clear water coming from it. 

13. Shisa Dance of Jichaku Nakanishi Uchima
photo The Shisamai, or lion dance, has been performed since ancient times throughout the prefecture's villages at festivals to bring on a good harvest and to drive out evil spirits from the villages. In Urasoe City the preservation associations of Jichaku, Nakanishi, and Uchima perform the dance on the 15th day of the 8th month of the old lunar calendar. The Jichaku Shisamai Dance has been designated as a Folk Performance Art by Japan. The Shisamai dances are performed on the full moon and are a spectacular sight for all to see. 
14. Stick Fighting Dance of Maeda and Uchima

This dance uses the Bo, or fighting staff, and is performed as a group dance. It has been conveyed as a folk performance art amongst the many regions of Okinawa since ancient times. There are about twenty kinds of Maeda Bo Dances including solo, duo and group dances. These are performed on the 15th day of the 8th month of the old lunar calendar. In the Uchima area dances the 3 shaku ( 0.9 meter) and the 6 shaku (1.8 meter) Bo are used and are referred to as "battlesticks". There are solo and group dances, and they are performed together with the Shisamai Lion Dances on the 15th day of the 8th month of the old lunar calendar. 

15. Ryukyuan Lacquerware

Ryukyuan lacqueraware is a distinctive traditional art developed with influences from the trading and cultural exchanges with China, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Pieces of Ryukyuan lacquerware were presented as representative artwork from the Ryukyus in tribute items sent to the Japanese Shogun and the emperor of China. In the Urasoe Art Museum there are over 35 pieces designated as cultural properties by the prefecture and the city. Advanced techniques used in Ryukyuan lacquerware include Chinkin (gilt-line engraving), Raden (mother of pearl inlay), Hakue (gold-leaf applique), and Mitsudae (litharge).

16. Sacred Gajimaru Tree in Yafuso

This large Gajimaru (small-leafed banyan, ficus retusa) tree is over 100 years old, has a diameter of over 1.3 meters, reaches to a height of 13 meters, and its branches spread over 21 meters out. Almost all of the forested areas of Urasoe were burned in the battles of WWII, but this tree survived and continues to grow. It faces the area's civic hall and is considered sacred. The tree is well loved by residents, who call it Yafuso-no-Uganju-no-gajimaru.

17. Giant Akagi Tree of Uchima
photo This Akagi (a euphorbia, bischofia javanica) is one of the few large trees in Urasoe City to escape destruction in WWII. It is said to be over 400 years old and is the oldest in Urasoe. The Akagi are distributed throughout the subtropics and are a tall evergreen. In Japan it is found in the Ryukyu Archipelago. In the Nara period (646-794 AD) it was a tribute item as a wood used for sword handles.
18. Omoro Ballad Memorial
photo During the Ryukyu Kingdom, the ancient songs and ballads sung at rites and festivals for the gods were collected into the Omoro-soushi, the classic literature of the era. They were songs for protection of the land and lords, safe sea voyages, and songs of battle. Of the 1554 ballads and songs collected, 67 are songs about Urasoe. Urasoe City chose amongst these and had a modern calligrapher write them out. The pieces were then carved into stone and erected as a monument.