On Oct 31, Japan woke up to heartbreaking news. At some point in the pre-dawn hours, a fire had broken out at Okinawa’s Shuri Castle, and photos and video of the blaze showed three of the cultural site’s structures in their final moments before the buildings burned to the ground.
Shuri Castle has long been the symbol of Japan’s most far-flung prefecture, in both literal and figurative senses. Not only is it one of the most popular tourism attractions for both locals and out-of-prefecture travelers, Shuri Castle’s architecture is unlike that of any other castle on Japan’s main islands, as the construction mixes Japanese traditions with influences from other Asian countries, in much the same way that Okinawa was, for centuries, a point of intersection for various Asian Pacific societies.
Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki has vowed to rebuild Shuri Castle, which has been destroyed or dismantled multiple times prior to last week’s fire. Such an undertaking won’t be cheap, though, and Okinawa’s capital city of Naha (in which Shuri Castle is located) has established a crowdfunding campaign to accept restoration donations. The campaign, which opened on the evening of November 1, one day after the fire, was initially seeking 100 million yen ($926,000) in donations. In just thee days, though, it has collected more than double that amount, with the total amount pledged at 291,188,789 yen as of Monday morning.
While any and all amounts are surely appreciated, the number of donors currently stands at 14,144, which works out to an especially generous average contribution of over 14,000 yen per person. Donors have left comments including:
“I don’t leave anywhere near Shuri Castle, but my thoughts are with the Okinawan people.”
“I’m honored to be able to help Okinawa, in some small way, to recover from this tragedy.”
“It may take a long time, but I look forward to seeing the beautiful symbol of Okinawa again one day.”
“When I go back to visit my home town in Okinawa every year, I always visit Shuri Castle, and it gives me strength. Thinking of how I won’t be able to do that next year makes me so sad.”
While the native Okinawan commenter is likely correct in that repair work is unlikely to be finished before the end of next year, Tamaki has expressed an aspirational timeline for the reconstruction. 2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of Okinawa’s return to the Japanese civilian government following decades of U.S. military administration following World War II, and the governor hopes that Shuri Castle will be completely rebuilt in time for the festivities.
The crowdfunding campaign is scheduled to run until March 31, and its website can be found here.
Sources: NHK News Web, Furusato Choice via Naha City
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