Location of Higaonna Kanryō‘s House

Recently we had a discussion on Facebook about Higaonna Kanryō.

During that discussion I noticed that I miscalculated the location of Higaonna Kanryō’s house in my Karate 1.0 (2013). There I concluded that Higaonna’s shop must have been situated in today’s Omoromachi 3-chōme 4-8-505, right behind the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum.

This was a mistake!

The reason for the miscalculation was that I confused a temple name.

But now I got it right.

Let me explain how I got to the approximate location.

Yoshimura Chōgi (1866-1945) left his “Autobiographic Martial Arts Records” (Jiden Budōki, 1941). Therein Yoshimura describes how he learned Karate from Higaonna Kanryō, starting in 1887 or 1888. According to Yoshimura,

“From my 22nd year, that is about 1888, I was a student of master Higaonna. About three times a month I went the distance from Shuri to him. Situated near the beach in Naha, in front of the Hongan-ji he ran a business selling firewood.” (transl. A. Quast)

Now, of course, today that place does not exist anymore like back then. First of all, the place was turned into a residential area by land reclamation starting around the 1880s. Furthermore, the air raid of October 10, 1944, alone destroyed 80 to 90% of Naha by fire, not counting in the Battle of Okinawa itself.

Now, back to the location.

The current Shinkyō-ji is what Hongan-ji in Yoshimura's text referred to.

The current Shinkyō-ji is what Hongan-ji in Yoshimura’s text referred to.

Yoshimura noted the temple called Hongan-ji. This temple was established in 1884 after Tahara Hūsui (1844 – 1927 ) began to propagate the Jōdo Shinshū sect in 1876 (Meiji 9).

The temple was first called Higashi Honganji Kōgijo (Lecture place of Higashi Hongan-ji). This is the Hongan-ji mentioned by Yoshimura. It was later renamed to Shinkyō-ji, which is still its current name.

It is located in Nishi town of Naha.

Moreover, according to Arume Kangaku, who was 72 years old at the time of the interview, Higaonna transported firewood from the Kerama Islands by boat and sold it in Nishi town of Naha. This was recorded in the late Nagamine Shōshin Sensei’s handwritten personal notebook (unpublished, copy in author’s collection).

So there are two independent records that describe the location of Higaonna’s shop quite closely.

Well, Yoshimura wrote that Higaonna’s house was “situated near the beach in Naha”, and Arume Kangaku noted that “Higaonna transported firewood … by boat “.

So, while looking for the location, I found the site called “Niishi nu Umi” or “Ocean at Nishi Town”. This site refers to the shores west of Nishi town in Naha. In the past, the coastline was U-shaped from Miegusuku (1) to current Sanmonji park (2) in Tsuji something like this:


Ok. So far so good.

I will now add the locations of the Shinkyō-ji temple (3) and the old coastline “Niishi nu Umi” (4):


So, Higaonna Kanryō’s house – and shop I assume – was located around points 3 and 4 on the map.


And if you want to know how it looked like, and even maybe see a boat of the Higaonna family, take a look at this 1877 drawing showing Nishi town with its houses and some people, the shoreline and the “Niishi no Umi”, as well as some cargo boats…




© 2017, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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