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Rei Kawakami was on a train to the airport after a conference in Seoul in October when she heard about the fire engulfing Shuri Castle in Okinawa.

“I’ve been to Shuri Castle and I knew that for the people of Okinawa, it was part of life,” said the 39-year-old associate professor. After reading news reports that students were so shocked by the castle’s destruction they were unable to go to school, Kawakami felt compelled to act.

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