Okinawa Shuri Castle Photo a Favorite

You know that saying, “You had to be there,” and how it is usually used in the context of appreciating a particular moment? With this all-time favorite karate photo of mine, there are aspects to it which you had to be there with us at Shuri Castle to appreciate. However, you may appreciate the picture’s uniqueness, composition and components simply by looking at the picture. You didn’t have to be there in order to enjoy this picture.

karate practitioners at Shuri Castle, Okinawa, Japan

Shuri Castle Photo Details

In this photo, we are in Okinawa, at Shuri castle’s main courtyard paved with red terra cotta tiles and grey concrete in a decorative pattern. The beautiful, iconic building behind us is the Shuri Castle Main Hall. It’s decorated to the hilt with dragons, shisas and lions, with red lacquer paint as well as shiny gold, as you can see here in some of the pictures I snapped.

Here’s another photo I took of the main hall in which you can see the huge dragons on the roof. These guys are not depicted in our group photo.

We tried to coordinate our t-shirt colors for each day that our U.R.K.A. group was in Okinawa. I don’t know if Kaicho planned it this way, but our red and maroon shirts are color coordinated with the hall behind us. Even the gray ones go along with the courtyard’s paving color scheme.    

What’s Going On in this Shuri Castle Photo

We may not have realized it at the time, but we were essentially flash mobbing the Naihanchi Shodan kata when we got out there and performed it. For whatever reason, this is apparently against their regulations. We only got a few moves in before the castle guards/staff came out and indicated we must stop. Those men are out of the frame here, but they were there and pretty insistent. That’s why a couple guys in the back row look like they’ve given up. I believe one of the guards was right there approaching them.

Shuri Castle guard with tourists in background

But some of us did another move or two and it made for a great picture. In fact, it created one of my all-time favorite karate pictures. Maybe my favoritism for this picture is somewhat personal. I’ll be the first to admit, it may be even egotistical. My husband and I, the Arizona people, stand there front and center in the ancient capitol of Okinawa. I think it’s funny that we are the only ones wearing sunglasses. I am almost centered on the main hall’s entrance and my Naihanchi stance has great structural integrity, if I do say so myself.

The Significance of the Shuri Capitol & Martial Arts

But I have finished bragging for quite a while now. This is not one of my favorite pictures of myself. It’s one of my favorite group photos and general karate pictures. For me it symbolizes Ryukyu no shin – the heart of the Ryukyu Kingdom* – which is embroidered on the black belt gi top of my formal karate uniform.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger 

*The Ryukyu Kingdom, or the Kingdom of Ryukyu, is the original name for what is now Okinawa. It is a prefecture of Japan, so it’s technically Okinawa, Japan. But long ago, the Ryukyu Kingdom was an independent country despite being a small island situated between several much bigger and more powerful countries. The Ryukyuan people, in their history, showed diplomacy, perseverance and survival, and regard for human life, among other things. These are the people who developed their martial arts through centuries. They brought karate to mainland Japan over 100 years ago, and ultimately introduced it to the world.

Shuri Castle courtyard, Okinawa, Japan, 2015

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