• Kyodo

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Six ancient maps of Okinawa drawn during the heyday of the Ryukyu Kingdom were recently returned to a historical research institute in the prefecture, 56 years after being seized from the estate of a Ryukyuan king by a U.S. military officer.

An ancient map of the area around Shuri Castle is one of six similar maps recently returned to a historical research institute in Okinawa.

The maps, which are believed to have been drawn some 200 to 230 years ago, were turned over by a 66-year-old Boston man to the Ryukyu America Historical Research Society.

The society is an Okinawa-based nonprofit organization that works toward the return of cultural assets taken overseas.

The maps were displayed to the press in Naha on Friday.

Measuring 35 by 45 to 68 cm, they depict the geography of Naha and other cities. They show major streets, villages and wells, with different colors marking each administrative district.

The maps were seized by the U.S. officer from the king’s estate near Shuri Castle — where Okinawa Island’s monarchs once lived — in the ancient capital of Shuri at the end of World War II.

The Bostonian later bought the maps at auction, before being asked by the institute to return them.

The institute said it will put the maps on public display after they have been digitally restored.

The kings of Ryukyu ruled the Ryukyu archipelago until 1879, when the Meiji government abolished the kingdom and turned it into Okinawa Prefecture.

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