The King’s Road

June 24th, 2009By Category: Culture, Travel

kings-road2It’s been designated as one of the 100 most historic streets in all Japan and was built specifically for the personal use of the King of the Ryukyus. He, along with his family and entourage used it to travel to their second residence at the royal gardens. Over time, it’s proximity to the castle made it not only suitable but appropriate for many Samurai families and members of the court to build houses and take up residence along its course.

Throughout its history it has been known by several names. Once upon a time it was called Ishi-Datami-Michi. Ishi means stone, datami is a offshoot of tatami and lastly michi is another way of saying road. Hence it was called the stone mat road.

These days it’s known as the Kinjo Cho Doro after the residential area it meanders through. A local history professor once led us on a tour that spanned its entire length all the way to the royal gardens at Shikinaen. He emphasized that it was “the King’s Road” and its original intent was to be a private road for him and his family. The best access to the road is from the Castle itself. Heading south one block from the historic main gate at Shuri Jo Mon you’ll find a T intersection.

Immediately across the street you can see what at first glance looks like the entrance to a private driveway. Follow that down the hill as it curves to the right and you’ll see the stone steps that mark the start of the historic road. It’s here that you’ll see a small monument that designates it as one of the 100 most historic roads in all of Japan. As you follow the road down the hill, you’ll notice several small coffee houses, Kissaten, along the way which are ideal for taking a break and drinking in the scenery from their verandas. The road going down is a piece of cake but you’ll probably want to stop once or maybe even twice on the way back up the hill. If you’re on a tight budget, there is an old Ryukyu style house halfway down the hill that is opened to the general public.

This is an ideal place to stop and take a rest from the sweltering summer sun. On some occasions they offer free sugar cane sweets and tea for thirsty visitors. The historic street is narrow and lined on both sides by stone walls, which surprisingly, many which are still in original condition. Some are covered with ivy, moss and fragrant flowers. As it was in olden times, it is still considered a romantic place for couples to meet for a date. This makes it a popular place for photography and it’s not uncommon to see a whole camera crew here doing a location shoot. One residence along the way was used as the setting of the popular NHK TV melodrama “Chura-San” which in the local dialect translates into beautiful person. It’s near this house that my wife first noticed signs (in Japanese) that point to a Sacred Grove but, that’s another story.

The stone pavement is rough and in some places and the grade is quite steep so comfortable shoes are highly recommended. Only the first half a kilometer of it is in the preserved state. The government and local residents work very hard to keep it immaculate. Graced with classic architecture, the many flowers that adorn the walls and private gardens along the way furnish this ancient path with an ambiance all its own.

Author of this article

Keith Graff

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  • Racovius says:

    Nice, info man.

    Kind of wish I knew about this when I was stationed in Kadena Air Base Jan 2008 – April 2009. I’ll be back. As an ex-pat this time around. I’ll make sure of that.

  • Racovius says:

    Nice, info man.

    Kind of wish I knew about this when I was stationed in Kadena Air Base Jan 2008 – April 2009. I’ll be back. As an ex-pat this time around. I’ll make sure of that.


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