Fire and police investigators inspected the burned-out ruins of Shuri Castle in Okinawa on Nov. 1 to determine the cause of the fire that nearly destroyed the symbol of the island’s cultural heritage and history of struggle.
The fire on Oct. 31 burned down the three main halls and four nearby structures at the castle in Okinawa’s prefectural capital of Naha. It took firefighters 11 hours to extinguish the blaze.
More than 130 investigators inspected the site Nov. 1, according to local officials. They believe the blaze started inside the Seiden, the castle’s centerpiece, around 2:30 a.m. when no one was around.
The late hour and the castle’s design, with a spacious wooden main hall connected to other main buildings by hallways, might have allowed the fire to spread quickly.
Shuri Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates from the 1429-1879 Ryukyu Kingdom era. The castle, burned down during World War II, was largely restored in 1992 for the 20th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan, which ended the island’s 27-year U.S. occupation. Historians and other experts had continued the restoration efforts until recently.
Many Okinawans expressed deep sorrow over the damage to the castle, which is a symbol of their cultural roots as well as the history of their struggle since the 1879 annexation by Japan.
Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said his heart was broken, but he expressed his determination to rebuild the castle. (AP)