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Nakagusuku udun

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The front hall (omote zashiki) of Nakagusuku udun, with the main gate in the background, in a 1920s photograph by Kamakura Yoshitarô

Nakagusuku udun, or the Nakagusuku palace, was the mansion of the Crown Prince of the Ryûkyû Kingdom, located just outside Shuri castle, the royal palace.

Much as the British heir apparent is known as the Prince of Wales, in Ryûkyû the Crown Prince always held the magiri of Nakagusuku as his domain, and was known as Prince Nakagusuku, or Nakagusuku ôji. His mansion in Shuri was therefore known as the Nakagusuku Palace, or Nakagusuku udun - not to be confused with Nakagusuku castle, which stood in his domain.

Like the royal palace, the mansion of the Crown Prince faced south. It was first built during the reign of King Shô Hô (1621-1640), and was located between the Shureimon and Chûzanmon just outside the royal castle grounds. The front areas of the mansion served as administrative spaces, while the Crown Prince's private quarters and other living spaces were further back. In the rear of the compound was the women's area of the house, an area known as the uchibaru. As in the uchibaru of Shuri castle, or the Ôoku of the shogun's palace, men were forbidden to enter this space, with the Crown Prince and a few others the only exceptions.

Just before the fall of the Ryûkyû Kingdom, in 1873, the mansion was relocated to a site just a short distance away, on the north side of Ryûtan pond. The Prince and his family moved into the mansion at the new location in 1875. Much of the kingdom's treasures were then moved to Nakagusuku udun, where they were cared for by a team of stewards. During the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945, those stewards attempted to protect some of the most precious artifacts by hiding them in a drainage ditch just outside the mansion. Some of these objects, including perhaps the only extant historical manuscript copy of the Omoro sôshi, were taken by American soldiers; this copy of the Omoro sôshi was returned to Okinawa in 1953, but other objects from the mansion, including a royal investiture crown, have not been recovered, and are either still in a private collection, or were lost, destroyed along with the Nakagusuku palace itself in the 1945 battle.

The original site of the Nakagusuku palace was renamed Shimu nu yakuen (下の薬園) when the palace was relocated. This site later became that of the Okinawa First Prefectural Middle School, and is today the site of Shuri High School. The latter site, on the north side of the Ryûtan, later became the site of the Okinawa Prefectural Museum. As this museum has now been moved to the Omoromachi neighborhood, there are now plans to rebuild the Nakagusuku Palace as a historical site and community center.

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