I decided to visit Shuri Castle in Okinawa. But as of 8th April, 2020, due to the spread of Corona Virus, the Government warned not to go outside. So why don’t we visit there by a virtual tour?
1. The Origin of Shuri Castle
Okinawa Prefecture is the Southernmost prefecture in Japan. But until the late 19th Century, Okinawa had been an independent kingdom called Ryukyu. Shuri Castle, today’s destination was a palace of this kingdom.
It was not known exactly when the castle was built. But there was already a castle by the late 13th or early 14th Century. Ryukyu had been the kingdom between 1429 and 1879. Since it located in the middle of East China Sea, the kingdom had a strong relation with South East Asia.
Ryukyu became a part of the property of Shimazu Clan in Kagoshima in 17th Century. After Meiji Restoration, it became Okinawa Prefecture. This was the time when the history of Ryukyu Kingdom ended. After that, the palace started deteriorating. But several scholars worked hard to preserve the legacy of the kingdom. It was finally registered as National Treasury and the government restored the main hall.
Unfortunately, it could not survive the World War II and the castle was destroyed during Okinawa War in 1945.
2. Reconstruction of Shuri Castle
Nearly half a century later in 1992, the citadel and walls were reconstructed. Since then, Shuri Castle has been the proud of Okinawa People.
Here is a photo of the castle from Wikipedia. Unfortunately, you cannot see this beautiful architecture today as of 9 April, 2020. It was gone last year because of the huge fire. I will tell you about the fire later but for the moment, since this is a virtual tour, let’s see the past scenery of Shuri.
Shuri Castle was the centre of politics and religion. So the site is surrounded by many historical interests including gates, temples, shrines and halls. Many of the roof tiles are red and they are typical in Okinawan architecture. Also, the style of the castle has a strong influence of China.
This is the gate standing at the edge of the site. King of Ryukyu Kingdom came here to welcome the envoy from China. It was reconstructed in 1958.
Before arriving at the centre of the castle, you will pass several gates.
In front of the Main Hall “Seiden”, there is a vast courtyard. This is where subordinate warriors saw the king and the Chinese envoys were greeted.
The ceilings and the pillars are coated with Japanese lacquer.
On 31 October, 2019, the fire broke out. It was a big fire – it lasted as long as eleven hours. The inferno destroyed all of the Main Hall, the South Hall and the North Hall.
Six months before this, Notre Dame of Paris was damaged by the fire. Therefore, the government has checked the fire prevention system of cultural heritages sites throughout Japan including Shuri Castle. And they advised to set sprinklers inside the cultural heritage. It was so unfortunate that they did not have sprinklers inside the castle.
This was the fifth fire incident for the castle after 1453, 1660, 1709 and 1945. And again, we want the reconstruction and the project has already begun. The previous reconstruction took almost 30 years but we all pray for Okinawa.