The south-east corner of the main island of Okinawa is relatively little visited but does have some interesting sites along what’s called the Gusuku Road. ‘Gusuku‘ is a bit of a controversial word as there is some debate among archeologists as to what it actually refers – it may be a stone fortress/residence, a defensive site, or a place of ancestor worship or burial place – and the period referred to as the ‘Gusuku Period’ pre-dates the Ryukyu Kingdom, possibly as far back as the 12th or 13th Centuries. Along the Gusuku Road, there are sacred sites and the ruins of several castles.
Starting by the ocean on the eastern coast is Sefa-utaki, one the most sacred sites on Okinawa and now a world-heritage site:
Continuing further down the road is Tamagusuku-jo Castle (there’s actually a couple of other sites on the road before that but we missed the turn-off), the oldest castle on Okinawa and said to have been built by the legendary creator of the Ryukyus, Amamikiyo. An amazing natural stone circle forms the entrance:
From the 16th Century or so on, the site was used more as a sacred place of worship. This is the remains of an alter:
Just up from here is Itoman-jo Castle, built in the 14th Century. It is the largest in the area and is relatively undeveloped so it feels a bit like stumbling onto an undiscovered ruin in the jungle:
Most of it is built from volcanic rock: