• Kyodo

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Volunteers joined in Monday to help with the reconstruction of the historic Shuri Castle, an Okinawa landmark destroyed by fire last year, cleaning the distinctive red roof tiles that are to be used in the restoration.

The volunteer work had been delayed nearly three weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. When they were finally able to pitch in, around 50 participants began removing plaster from the roof tiles of the Hokuden north hall, Nanden south hall and the guardhouse, which had all burned to the ground in the Oct. 31 fire.

Including the main buildings of the castle — which has symbolized the prefecture and is located at a World Heritage site — the fire devastated six wooden structures occupying over 4,000 square meters on a hill overlooking Naha. The blaze is thought to have been caused by an electrical fault.

While reconstruction work began Feb. 10, the Okinawa Prefectural Government is still soliciting ideas on how to use the damaged tiles. The volunteer work will continue through April 26.

“It was a big shock to lose the symbol of Okinawa. I wanted to contribute to the reconstruction,” said Mana Shimoji, 20, a Kyushu University student who is home on spring break.

Shuri Castle was the center of government, foreign affairs and culture in the Ryukyu Kingdom from 1429 until Okinawa was annexed by Japan in 1879. It has burned down several times, including during World War II. The castle ruins, excluding restored buildings, were registered as an UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.

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