October 31, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo
At dawn on October 31, the fire broke out at the main hall of Shuri Castle or Shuri-jo castle in Naha City, Okinawa.
At 2:41 a.m., the Naha City Fire Department received a call about the fire from a security guard at the castle.
As of 7 a.m., the fire had not been extinguished.
The main hall and the north hall are almost completely burned out, and the fire spread to other buildings, such as the south hall.
About 40 fire-fighting vehicles were dispatched from the Naha City Fire Department and other area fire agencies to rush to the spot and douse the blaze. So far, there is no information about injured people.
The fire department is investigating the cause of the fire.
Naha City has been issuing warnings about the fires via the community wireless emergency alert system and public relations vehicles and is urging residents to close windows due to the possibility of fire sparks flying far away.
In addition, police tape is stretched around the castle and traffic restrictions are in place, and the prefectural police are calling for residents to evacuate.
Naha City has set up shelters at Jonan Elementary School, Shuri Community Center, and Ishimine Community Center.
Three people have been evacuated to the Ishimine Community Center. Naha City will hold the first meeting of the disaster warning headquarters at 7:30 a.m. on October 31.
Around 4:30 a.m., a sound like an explosion was heard, and the fire burned violently in the main hall of the castle, the apparent source of the fire, and smoke could be seen.
The fire is spreading over a wide area, with sparks reaching near the Hantagawa River more than 1 km away.
Takemasa Miyagi, 44, who lives near the castle, noticed the fire when he heard the sound of the siren and saw the sky stained red.
Miyagi said with unbelievable expression, “No one should be able to enter the main hall during night-time. Why? I’m just surprised.”
Shuri-jo castle was the central facility of the Ryukyu Kingdom for about 450 years from 1429 to 1879 and was the center of politics and culture.
It was designated as a national treasure in 1925 as an “Okinawa Shrine Hall”, but it was destroyed in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa.
After the war, the former site became the campus of the University of the Ryukyus, but after the university relocation, a restoration project was carried out.
It was restored as a national park in 1992 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Okinawa’s reversion to Japan.
In December 2000, Shuri Castle Ruins was registered as the 11th World Heritage Site in Japan as “Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu”.
In the same year, a Social Dinner for the“G8 Kyushu/Okinawa Summit” was held.
The Shuri-jo castle attracts many tourists from Japan and overseas, now a leading tourist destination.
(English translation by T&CT)