記事番号: 1-6509

公開日 2019年09月25日

更新日 2019年09月25日

The origins of the Ryukyu Kingdom

Urasoe is known as the birthplace of the Ryukyu Kingdom. This is the site where one of the most powerful rulers of the Chūzan Kingdom, King Shunten, maintained his court. In the past, Urasoe covered an area much larger than that of the present-day city, including the expansive region of Ginowan, Naha Port, and parts of Nishihara. The name “Urasoe” stems from the word  うらおそい (ura-osoi) which takes meaning from the phrase “to rule throughout the realm” (津々浦々を支配する tsu-tsu ura-ura wo shihai-suru). The pronunciation gradually changed to ura-shī, which then changed to the current spelling of “Urasoe.”


Urasoe was the capital of the Chūzan Kingdom from 1187 to 1405, and the royal court was based at Urasoe Castle. It was a flourishing political, economic, and cultural center that traded with China and numerous other countries in Asia. In 1406, the Chūzan royal court moved to Shuri. After defeating the rulers of the the Hokuzan and Nanzan Kingdoms, Shō Hashi of the Chūzan Kingdom became the first ruler to unite the entire island of Okinawa, creating the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1429. Urasoe moved to the background until the 1500s, when the eldest son of King Shō Shin was banished from Shuri. He took up residence in Urasoe and brought renewed life to the castle.


The Satsuma Invasion

In 1609, the Kyushu-based Satsuma Clan occupied the Ryukyu Islands and propagated Japanese language and customs. During the invasion much of the Urasoe area was destroyed. However, the region eventually recovered and while the rest of Japan was subject to the central government's policy of isolation, the Ryukyu Islands were not bound by this and benefited from continued trade with overseas countries. In 1872, the Ryukyu Kingdom was dismantled and designated as "Ryukyu Han." In 1879, the island chain officially became known as Okinawa Prefecture.


During World War II, Urasoe faced intense fighting and everything was razed to the ground. 4,117 people, 45% of Urasoe's population, lost their lives. After the Battle of Okinawa ended on June 23, 1945, the first task to be undertaken by Urasoe's village administration was that of accepting returnees who had evacuated because of the fighting. In 1946, the village office was re-established to coordinate official business and restore basic agricultural operations. Four years later, under United States occupation, Urasoe experienced a significant increase in the US military presence in the western area that today makes up Camp Kinser.


Post-war Urasoe

Urasoe was designated a city in 1970, two years prior to the return of Okinawa to Japan, and has been developing as a thriving suburb of Naha ever since. In keeping with its historical experiences as a center of trade and overseas contact, Urasoe has established its motto “sunlit and green, a cultured city rich with international spirit” continuing to pursue a policy of increasing international understanding.


For those interested in learning more about Urasoe, a flash animation narrated by the kings of Urasoe depicts the city's history and cultural heritage sites! Click on the following image to see more!




企画部 国際交流課