Discover the mausoleum of the kings of the Ryukyu Kingdom
The Tama-udun mausoleum is the final resting place of the royal family of the second Sho Dynasty of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It was built in 1501 during the reign of King Sho Shin (1477–1526), as a symbol of sovereign power over the Ryukyu Islands.
Although Tama-udun suffered damage in WWII, restoration work was completed in 1977. In addition to being accorded World Heritage status, Tama-udun is a National Treasure. Tours of the mausoleum are conducted in Japanese on the third Sunday of odd numbered months. Find more information here (*only in Japanese).
Structure of the mausoleum
The mausoleum is modeled after Shurijo Castle, carved out of limestone bedrock, with a gabled tile roof. The outer walls enclosing the grounds are made of coral limestone. The burial chamber has three rooms—central, eastern, and western—separated by stone gates. In the central room, the royal remains were stored for purification, before being interred in the eastern room. The eastern room was exclusively for the remains of kings and queens. The western room was for the remains of other members of the royal family.
A stone wall in front of the tomb has stone balustrades decorated with carvings of fictional beasts such as dragons and phoenixes, and motifs found in Chinese art such as lions and lotuses. Similar decorations adorn Shurijo Castle. Three stone pedestals topped with lion statues are placed at the center and on either side of the burial chamber, as if standing guard over the royals resting within. There is also an inscribed stele in the mausoleum’s central courtyard, which is regarded as the oldest kana (Japan’s phonetic alphabet) inscription. Both the statues and the stele are made out of a resilient igneous rock called diabase.
The Sho Dynasties
The Ryukyu Kingdom was ruled by two different Sho Dynasties. The first dynasty was established in 1406 by the Sho family, including the unifier of the Ryukyu Kingdom, Sho Hashi (1372–1439). The first dynasty lasted until 1469. The second dynasty was established by a vassal of the court, Kanemaru, who adopted the Sho name to rule the kingdom as Sho En (1415–1476). The second dynasty continued for 410 years, until the islands became part of Japan in1879). Only the royalty of the second Sho Dynasty are entombed at Tama-udun.
- Transportation information
- Tama-udun is located in Naha, just a short walk from Shurijo Castle. It can be conveniently accessed by bus and Yui Rail. The nearest Yui Rail station is Shuri Station; the mausoleum is about 15 minutes from the station by foot. There are several bus routes that include Shurijo Castle and the Tama-udun mausoleum. Find more information at Transport Navi Okinawa.
- Contact information
Tama-udun mausoleum1-3 Kinjocho Shuri, Naha City, Okinawa PrefectureMAPCODE : 33 160 659098-885-2861