The early 15th century in Okinawa was marked by fierce battles between local tribes. Then known as the Ryukyu Kingdom, castles or Gusuku were constructed throughout the island to defend against attacking rival forces. Castles tended to be built on the highest land overlooking the surrounding area and any approaching armies. Many of these castles still exist today, albeit as ruins or reconstructed ramparts and are listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Zakimi Castle perched high on a hilltop overlooking the picturesque village of Yomitan is one of the better examples of Ryukyu Kingdom Gusukus. It dates back to around 1420 and was built by Gosamaru to defend the northern part of central Okinawa Island. Interestingly, the arched gates inside the inner courts feature unique Ryukyuan stonework and are the oldest such gates in Okinawa.
The walls are now beautifully restored and the castle is set within a large park surrounded by Ryukyu pine trees, open grassy spaces and picnic benches. The park has a number of walking trails which loop around one side of the castle from the large parking area at the back to the museum and rest area at the front entrance. The castle is accessed by steps at the front and a wheelchair and baby stroller-accessible path from the rear parking. Admission to the castle and grounds is free of charge and it is open to the public 24 hours a day.
Right at the back of the park is a walking trail through the forest. The entrance isn’t clearly marked, in fact it took us a few visits to discover it. It’s a raised wooden boardwalk with steep staircases weaving through the trees. Its a nice hike, if a little short at about half a mile. The hike brings you back to the front entrance where there is an ice-cream vending machine and the Yuntanza Museum. We didn’t go into the museum (we went for the ice cream instead) but it seemed to have exhibitions on the history of Yomitan Village and cost 500 yen to enter. Yomitan village is about an hours drive from Naha and the castle is in northern Yomitan accessed from Route 58.
〒904-0301 Okinawa, Nakagami District, Yomitan, Zakimi, 7086
Open 24 hours
Free parking available