Shuri Castle: At the Heart of the Former Ryūkyū KingdomCulture
On October 31, 2019, the main hall and other buildings at Shuri Castle in Naha, Okinawa, were destroyed by fire.
Shuri Castle was at the heart of the former Ryūkyū Kingdom, which was established in 1429 by Shō Hashi after he unified the island of Okinawa. It remained the political, economic, and cultural center of the kingdom until Japan incorporated the archipelago into its territory as Okinawa Prefecture in 1879. Later surveys showed that the fortress was built some time in the mid- or late fourteenth century. It has undergone repeated conflagrations and reconstructions over the centuries since. In 1925, it was designated as a National Treasure, but in 1945 it was destroyed again in the Battle of Okinawa toward the end of World War II.
It was most recently rebuilt in 1992 at the center of the Shuri Castle Park. In 2000, it was registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site as Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryūkyū.
A Shuri Castle Timeline
|14th century||Shuri Castle built for the first time.|
|1429||Formation of the Ryūkyū Kingdom.|
|1609||Ryūkyū Kingdom effectively conquered by the Satsuma domain (now Kagoshima Prefecture), although it retains nominal independence.|
|1660||Castle destroyed by fire.|
|1709||Castle destroyed by fire.|
|1853||US Navy Commodore Matthew Perry visits castle.|
|1872||Japanese government establishes Ryūkyū domain.|
|1879||Japanese government absorbs Ryūkyū Kingdom into Japanese territory as Okinawa Prefecture.|
|1925||Castle designated as a National Treasure.|
|1945||Castle destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa.|
|1989||Castle reconstruction begins.|
|1992||Shuri Castle Park opens with reconstructed castle at the center.|
|2000||Group of 8 summit banquet held at the castle.|
|2000||Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryūkyū becomes a UNESCO World Heritage site.|
|2019||Castle destroyed by fire.|
Article and timeline based on sources including the official Shuri Castle Park website and the Cultural Heritage website of the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)