A mere three kilometers south of the busy Shuri Castle tourist district endures a quiet wooded retreat used exclusively as a getaway spot for the royal family. Shikinaen Royal Garden was the largest of the secondary homes built for the royal family and was also used to entertain guests and host foreign dignitaries.
Built in the 18th Century, Shikinaen is a 42,000 square meter property that contains a large circular pond with several islands, stone bridges, a wooden palace, an observatory, a guard house, a banana plantation, a fresh water spring, and dozens of dozens of varieties of shrubs, flowers and trees. The walkways along the park are paved in ryukyuan limestone underneath near triple canopy vegetation and along a scenic pond.
The Udun Palace is a 159 tsubo and 15 room wooden house used to entertain foreign guests visiting the Ryukyuan King. It is tiled in Okinawan red tile on the roof which was a design feature reserved only for the most affluent families in Okinawa. The home was built in the 17th Century prior to the creation of the surrounding garden and pond.
The natural beauty of Shikinaen brings out the photographer in most visitors, but the garden is best enjoyed by putting the electronics away to just enjoy being there. A pleasant walk will melt away all stress; better yet grab a loved one and stroll through a romantic journey once reserved only for the royal family. Enjoy the breathtaking views from the Kankodai observatory; admire the neatly groomed groves and architectural beauty of the palace.
Shikinaen was completely destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. An extensive twenty year restoration effort began in 1975. It was deemed a Japanese national government Place of Scenic Beauty in 1975 and as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in December, 2000.
Shikinaen Royal Garden is located on Route 222 in Naha. Drive south after exiting the Okinawa Expressway Exit 1 along Route 81 then turn west onto Route 222. There is a large parking lot on the premises. Bus route 2 from Naha Terminal stops at the Shikinaen Royal Garden bus stop near the property. Purchase admission from the small souvenir stand at the tourist entrance to the garden. Admission is 400 yen for adults or 200 yen for children of junior high school age or younger. Hours of operation are 09:00 ~ 17:30 during April through September, and 09:00–17:00 during October through March. There is one restroom in the parking lot and another just west of the observatory.
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