Shuri Castle – Okinawa. UNESCO Cultural Heritage burned down in Okinawa and NOBODY is talking about it.
Between 1429 and 1879, it was the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom, before becoming largely neglected.
In 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa, it was almost completely destroyed. After the war, the castle was re-purposed as a university campus. Beginning in 1992, the central citadel and walls were largely reconstructed on the original site based on historical records, photographs, and memory.
On the morning of 31 October 2019, however, the main courtyard structures of the castle were destroyed in a fire.
An awful reminder of what happened earlier this year in Paris with Notre Dame de Paris nearly destroyed by a criminal fire. Or in Brazil with the tragedy of Quinta da Boa Vista .
The original castle is believed to have been built by Chuzan Aji in the 14th century with extensions made in 1427 by Sho Hashi who was the first ruler of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In 1609 the castle was overthrown by the Satsuma clan and the king imprisoned. The king was returned to the castle several years later, to enable trade with China to resume, but under the guidance of the Satsuma – who answered to Tokugawa.
The great walls of Shuri Castle in Naha Okinawa. A great kingdom once thrived here and this recreation is one of the Okinawan peoples historical gems from a time now long since past.
The castle served as the royal residence and seat of political power for over 400 years until 1897, when the king was banished from the castle when the Ryukyu kingdom was annexed, and the region became a prefecture of Japan. The Japanese military took over the site, creating many tunnels and caves underground. It was destroyed during WW II and became the ground for the Ryukyu University, until it was restored as part of the 20th anniversary of the reversion of the island back to Japan.
Walking around the castle grounds, it is easy to see the Chinese influence in both the wall features and the inner buildings. That too, is the overall feeling when passing around Okinawa – it is a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and something else that gives the island a very unique feel and character, which this castle sums up perfectly.
The site is definitely worthy of its world heritage listing, and stands as a historical record of the island’s history.
Even though the flames are extinguished, they left behind a skeleton of what was the brightly painted Shuri Castle. According to The Mainichi, the Japanese government has vowed to rebuild the ancient structure, paying homage and respect to what the site represents for Okinawa.
Gavan McCormack, ‘Obama vs Okinawa’. New Left Review 64, July-August 2010
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