During the early morning hours on October 31st, the Shuri Castle in Okinawa, Japan (designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000) went up in flames.
The Shuri Castle is located in Naha and has become a historic symbol of the Ryukyu Kingdom which ruled from 1429 to 1879 when Japan annexed Okinawa. The Castle holds further importance to the island and the whole nation; Shuri Castle was destroyed during the battle of Okinawa at the end of WWII where 200,000 (many of them civilians) lost their lives. The Castle was rebuilt and became home to Okinawa’s largest public university until the 1970s when it was dedicated as a public monument.
At the time of this most recent fire, the Castle was hosting an annual week-long festival; all remaining events were subsequently cancelled. Firefighters worked for over 10 hours to control the flames which quickly spread to adjacent wooden buildings due in part to high winds.
Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said, upon news of the fire, “My heart is broken. But I also feel strongly that we must reconstruct Shuri Castle, a symbol of the Ryukyu Kingdom filled with our history and culture.”