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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Taachii Ishi, Perry's Banner Rock

"The Banner Rock"

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Perry's Banner Rock

     N 26 16.537E 127 47.300

Taachii Ishi, Perry's Banner Rock

On 26 May 1853, an American expedition led by Commodore Matthew C. Perry arrived at Napha Port (Naha)(i). Four days later, on May 30th, Commodore Perry dispatched a small exploration team to go ashore and survey the surrounding area. The team was lead by an Officer, a chaplain by the name of Mr. Jones, accompanied by a Mr. Bayard Taylor who was appointed to document their journey, and 10 other members.(1,2) Their journey would take them from Shuri Castle to Nakagusuku Castle by way of a road called Hanta Michi or Hanta Road.(2) Along the way, they noticed a very large rock formation on a ridge line that divided the western and eastern part of the island (1) (This ridge line also happens to be the location of Arakaki Gusuku ruins).

Memorized by the summit's beauty, Mr. Taylor wrote the following passage in his journal,
“...we came upon a singular rock, rising high out of a forest of pines. The summit which was very sharp and jagged, was seventy or eighty feet above the crest of the ridge, and being composed of secondary limestone, honeycombed by the weather, it was an exceedingly striking and picturesque object.” (1)
Mr. Bayard then ascended up the summit and after witnessing its amazing panoramic view, ordered for the American Flag and hoisted it up as his men down below fired their guns in salute. To mark the occasion, the team named it, the “Banner Rock”.(1)

The moment was indeed inspirational, which then prompted a team member (Mr. Heine) to sketch the scene.(1)ii This same sketch is visible on a historical sign placed by the Nakagusuku Village Office (on location) and is also found on page 168 of Perry's narrative. This photograph (February 2014) is from an estimated angle of where the sketch was taken from.

The local Okinawans call this rock formation taachi ishi meaning two rocks (also pronounced as taachaa ishi). However, on March 7, 1997 the Nakagusuku Village Office officially bestowed the name “Perry's Banner Rock” to commemorate its historical value.(2) For further reading on Commodore Perry's exploration team, visit under Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan, Chapters 8 (pgs 162-186).

1. Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan, 1856
pg 151, Chapter 7 (Arrival into Naha and exploration team dispatched)
pg 167, Chapter 8 (Mr. Bayard Taylors's description of the summit – Quotation)
pg 168 , Chapter 8 (Picture of the Banner Rock)
2. Nakagusuku Historical Sign (On location, English translated)

i. The name Napha is heavily used in Perry's Narrative to describe what is considered now Naha City. It is not certain by the author if this was used because of the Okinawan's pronunciation or what Perry's expedition team had misinterpreted.
ii. Mr. Heine is mentioned by Mr. Bayard as the person who “stopped to sketch it [the rock formation]” and his name can also be found on the bottom left hand corner of the sketch.

Caution. There is a makeshift ladder to help you get near the top, however this ladder is somewhat old. Please use extreme caution should you decide to scale the summit. Some climbing will be required. Please do not attempt if you are not in great physical condition. Gloves are recommended.

Directions/Parking. The most direct route is to take Highway 329 to Nakagusuku Village to Highway 35. You will then be going up a hillside. Your first LandMark will be the “Okinawa Pref. Fire Academy” sign. Continue pass this and make the 1st right (see picture). Continue straight. You will pass the Arakaki Gusuku Ruins on your left. Continue straight till you arrive at the viewing area (see picture). There will be parking available. That same road is also called Hanta Michi. Though you will not be able to drive any further, Hanta Michi (alternate route) takes you towards Nakagusku Castle.

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