Castle’s main hall, two other buildings completely consumed by flames.

In the early hours of the morning on October 31, long before sunrise, the dark sky of Okinawa’s capital city Naha was lit by flames rising from Shuri Castle. A fire broke out at the historical site sometime around 2:30 a.m., and despite the efforts of over 100 firefighters who rushed to the scene, by the time the blaze was contained three buildings, including the castle’s main hall, had burned completely to the ground, with another three structures also severely damaged.

Shuri Castle is unique among Japan’s traditional strongholds in that it incorporates a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian influences. As such, it’s a reflection of the special mixture of heritages that gave birth to Okinawan culture itself, and the fire was a traumatic shock to the prefecture’s people. On the afternoon of October 31, Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki held a press conference at the prefectural capital building, where he addressed his constituents’ pain and assured them that the beloved landmark is not gone forever.

“Many people have contacted us to say they want the castle rebuilt as soon as possible. We will, absolutely, rebuild Shuri Castle,” Tamaki promised. Describing the destruction as “the loss of a fundamental element of our identity,” the governor made immediate plans to travel to Tokyo, where he will begin a series of meetings with federal government figures and agencies including the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (of ultra-luxurious pancake fame).

“The residents of Okinawa, as well as people of Okinawan descent throughout the world, feel a great sense of loss, and I will be asking the [federal] government to provide as much cooperation as possible,” Tamaki said. The governor also let it be known that his office is in the process of establishing a special bank account to accept donations, both domestic and international, for the restoration of the castle.

While the project will be a massive undertaking, all of Shuri Castle’s original buildings had been destroyed or dismantled by 1945 at the latest. Both the structures lost in the October 31 fire and those still standing are modern reconstructions, and so with enough effort and support, Shuri Castle can be rebuilt once again.

Source: Okinawa Times via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/663highland
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