National

Japan government aims to restore Okinawa's gutted Shuri Castle by 2026

Kyodo

The government on Friday decided it would aim to restore the gutted Shuri Castle in Okinawa by 2026, with full-fledged reconstruction to begin in 2022.

The government aims to enhance fire-prevention measures by installing sprinklers, previously missing at the castle, and automatic fire-detector alarms. Structural systems will also be improved to allow fires to be extinguished at an early stage.

The main buildings of the castle, a symbol of the island prefecture and part of a World Heritage site, were destroyed in a fire on Oct. 31. The blaze is suspected to have been caused by an electrical fault.

The fire devastated six wooden buildings occupying over 4,000 square meters on a hill overlooking the prefectural capital of Naha.

“Shuri Castle is an important building that can be said to be the pride of the people of Okinawa. We will restore Shuri Castle with responsibility,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

While small-scale reconstruction work began on Feb. 10, including removing debris, the government will draw up the design in fiscal 2020 through next March, according to the schedule.

The government will work closely with the Okinawa Prefectural Government to restore the castle.

“This is a step forward for reconstruction. The contents (of the plan) firmly reflect the thoughts of local people,” Gov. Denny Tamaki said.

“We will continue to cooperate with the government, and work diligently to promote tourism by showing the progress of reconstruction,” it said. “We will also formalize a management system that prevents such incidents from occurring again.”

Wood to reconstruct the burned-down Seiden main hall will mainly come from domestic Cupressaceae, a type of cypress tree, as the original native wood species is likely to be difficult to obtain.

Volunteers joined in Monday to help with the reconstruction, cleaning the distinctive red roof tiles that are to be used in the restoration. The prefectural government is soliciting ideas on how to use the damaged tiles. The volunteer work will continue through April 26.

Shuri Castle was the center of politics, 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, but opened as a national park in 1992 with the Seiden main hall and some other buildings restored.

The basic reconstruction plan formulated last December is modeled after the previous restoration plan with strengthened fire prevention measures. The restored Seiden will be modeled on the structure built in 1712, which was designated as a national treasure in 1925 before burning down during the war.

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