The summer has come and gone and autumn approaches on the winds of another typhoon. In the time since I’ve written my last blog, I have commemorated three years of life here in the Ryukyus.
Reflecting back on my arrival, I was thinking about how captivated I was by these buildings left behind that spoke and still do speak of another life lived. Not by me, but the Uchinanchu, the Okinawan people.
When I first arrived, I was on Camp Foster at the backside of Building One. I looked out, as I often do, taking in scenery and noticed silhouetted against the sky, there was a castle on a hill. Of course we don’t have castles or royalty in America and the idea of living in a place where there was that separation of classes with all the distinctions that came with it, fascinated me. It still does.
I have degrees in Psychology of course, but being a 35- year old student afforded me the ability to double-major and get a Bachelor’s in Greek and Roman Civilizations; Language and Culture Concentration. I tell you this to explain my continuing interest in archaeology, architecture and any pile of rocks I come across.
I usually go to these castle or historic sites alone, as I am sure my friends do not share my enchantment with staring at how perfectly rocks were fitted into walls or post holes dug in the ground ages ago.
The Nakagusuku Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site that sits about four miles from my house. It looms over both sides of the island, with a vantage point of both the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
The castle itself is named Yama-jiro and has six different enclosures, constructed of cut Ryukyu limestone. there were three kinds of stone laying technique in the Ryukyu Kingdom: Nozura-zumi, Nuno-zumi or Tofu-zumi and Aikata-zumi or Kikko Midare-zumi.
Four of the enclosures of Yama-jiro were constructed circa 1440 CE when Lord Gosamaru of Zakimi Castle in Yomitan relocated. In 1458, Katsuren Lord Amawari (not awamori), led a raid with the king’s army suspecting treason by Gosamaru. He committed suicide without attempting to fight.
That’s a little history. What I was imagining as I walked through these grounds, in stifling 95 F weather and ubiquitous humidity, was the people who stood where I stood almost 600 years ago. Could they imagine this world? And then I thought, what will the world be like 600 years from now? Will there still be a world 600 years from now?
I spent a little while just walking and appreciating one of the best preserved castles in its original state. Then I jumped in my car and drove to my house, knowing I was safely protected under the watchful eye of Nakagusuku Castle.
So, the following weekend I decided it was time to get out on my new little Ichiro (125 cc Suzuki) and see Okinawa in a way a car will not allow me. I wanted to meander through narrow side streets that frighten me in my FunCargo.
I have been driving out to Hamahiga, Henza, Miyagi and Ikei Islands for almost three years now. When I have visitors, it is one of the drives I enjoy taking people on. The Kaichu bridge is quite extraordinary splitting that stunning teal water punctuated with coarse, roughened iconic Okinawan rocks.
I drove through the streets with the surprisingly throaty rumble of my little motorcycle and explored streets that had not been accessible to me before.
I remembered the last time I drove to Ikei Island it was rainy and frightening as the water was pouring down the roads with its twists and turns. This day there were clouds, but the sky showed no threat of rain. I was thrilled to drive down dirt roads and discover places I had not seen before.
It was a wonderful afternoon….I am so thankful for the many wonderful afternoons I have had since living here. I often think to myself that the love of my life is not a man, but these beautiful little Ryukyu Islands. How truly blessed I am.