• Jiji, Kyodo

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A four-day festival started Saturday at Shuri Castle as donations have exceeded ¥5 billion for the reconstruction of Okinawa Prefecture’s symbol on the first anniversary since a massive fire destroyed much of the historical landmark.

In the predawn hours of Oct. 31, 2019, the fire, the cause of which remains undetermined, started in the castle’s Seiden main building, before spreading to six other structures.

The four-day festival started with traditional music in Naha, and will culminate on Tuesday with a parade by locals dressed as the indigenous king and queen and their entourage.

“I feel sad now that I see (the castle) is really lost,” said Reiko Kinjo, a 47-year old local resident, who visited the site with her family for the first time since the fire, adding that she hopes such a disaster will never be repeated.

Locals participate in a festival at Shuri Castle in Okinawa on Saturday. | KYODO
Locals participate in a festival at Shuri Castle in Okinawa on Saturday. | KYODO

Kotaro Hidaka, a 42-year-old visitor from Osaka, said he will do whatever he can, including making a donation, to help complete the reconstruction work.

Under the project by the Cabinet Office and the Okinawa Prefectural Government, the construction of a new Seiden building is expected to start in 2022, with a survey for the procurement of wood materials and work to draw up its basic design currently underway. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2026.

The Cabinet Office’s Okinawa General Bureau is touting the slogan “reconstruction on display,” as it plans to showcase the stages of the reconstruction.

A cost estimate for the project is due as early as next year. It cost about ¥7.3 billion to build the former Seiden building, which was completed in 1992.

A fire rips through Shuri Castle's main building on Oct. 31 last year. | NAHA CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT / VIA KYODO
A fire rips through Shuri Castle’s main building on Oct. 31 last year. | NAHA CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT / VIA KYODO

Donations from Okinawa and the rest of the country will be used to procure timber, red kawara roof tiles and other materials, as well as to cover costs for restoring interior and exterior decorations.

A key task in the reconstruction project will be fire prevention measures. The previous Seiden building did not have sprinklers, as they were not legally required.

A third-party investigation panel set up by the prefectural government said that the slow initial response to the Shuri Castle fire resulted from the inadequate training of security guards and others in the event of a fire during the night. The Okinawa Prefectural Police and fire fighting authorities believe that there was no criminal intent in the incident.

A projection mapping show at Shuri Castle in Naha on Friday, a day before the one-year anniversary of a massive fire at the historic castle. | KYODO
A projection mapping show at Shuri Castle in Naha on Friday, a day before the one-year anniversary of a massive fire at the historic castle. | KYODO

To prevent such a tragedy from occurring again, the third-party panel said that it is crucial to develop a management system for the castle, as well as equipping it with cutting-edge fire prevention gear.

Nine months before the fire, castle management was transferred from the national government, which owned the landmark, to the prefectural government, which outsourced it to the Okinawa Churashima Foundation. That management structure remains unchanged.

Based on the third-party panel’s final report, due near the end of fiscal 2020, the Okinawa government will consider specific fire prevention measures, in cooperation with the national government and the foundation.

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