Shuri Castle, a popular tourist attraction in Okinawa Prefecture that was destroyed in a fire in 2019, is to be restored and open to the public by 2026 with national and prefectural government support.
The announcement was made on the eve of the first anniversary of the blaze, at the night reception of Tourism Expo Japan, the business meetings and exhibition for travel trade professionals held from October 29 to November 1.
With a hill-top location overlooking Naha, the capital of Okinawa, Shuri Castle had been an iconic spot for travellers before a fire suspected to be caused by an electrical fault broke out in the early hours of the morning of October 31 and engulfed the surrounding six wooden buildings across 4,000m2 of the complex.
Speaking at the expo’s reception, Denny Tamaki, governor of Okinawa Prefecture, expressed his gratitude for monetary donations and messages of hope that have flooded into the southern Japan prefecture following the devastation of its UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“With the support of well-wishers from at home and abroad and the financial support of the government of Japan, together we are on schedule to complete the restoration of the main chambers of the castle by 2026 and to open up to visitors once again,” he said.
He added that ahead of the expo, the Japan Association of Travel Agencies, were among those that have provided financial support to restore the castle to its former glory.
Visitors can inspect the structural remains of the castle including the ancient stone foundations, which castle guides say are the site’s most valuable cultural asset, as well as parts of two historically important stone statues, which have been labelled to allow for their reconstruction. Other parts of the castle complex, including its walls and gardens also remain open to the public, having been unaffected by the fire.
Events at the castle will be the backbone of restoration plans, according to Tamaki who said the castle walls would be used for digital mapping shows while the open spaces would feature traditional Okinawan entertainment. He said efforts would improve and further develop the charm of Shuri Castle Park in the long-term.