Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Katsuren at the Center of the World

Katsuren is not only the title of a novel but also a real place, a UNESCO world heritage site. The ruins of the castle, or gusuku, overlook a deep water harbor sheltered by the Katsuren peninsula in Okinawa. Unlike the sites closer to Naha or the incredibly beautiful Nakijin gusuku farther north in Motobu, Katsuren is not well visited because it is well off the beaten path of tourism. However, at one point in history, it was the center of trade for that part of the world. A character in the novel Katsuren remarks that ancient coins and pottery from far away are always turning up if you poke around in the dust at the castle site. Surprisingly--or not surprisingly if you know Katsuren's history--a coin from ancient Rome turned up last fall. So did a coin from the 17th century Turkish empire. It is not so hard to imagine trade between Katsuren and China, the Philippines, even Thailand. But Turkey way at the far end of the silk road, and Rome--farther still! What a wonderful find! As the author of a novel featuring a brand-new archeologist beginning her career at the back-of-beyond Katsuren site, this news gave me a super thrill. Thank you, archeology!