Shuri Castle

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The main building of Shuri Castle

Shuri Castle (Okinawan: sui ugusiku, Japanese: 首里城 Shurijo) is a gusuku (Ryukyuan castle) in Shuri, Okinawa. It was the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa, it was almost completely destroyed, with only a few walls standing as high as a few tens of centimeters. In 1992, it was reconstructed on the original site based on photographs, historical records, and memory.


Sonohyan Utaki Shrine with ishi-mon Gate
View on Naha from Shurijo

The date of construction is uncertain, but clearly it was in use as a castle during the Sanzan period. It is thought that it was probably built during the Gusuku period, like the other castles of Okinawa. When King Sho Hashi unified the three sections of Okinawa and established the Ryukyu Kingdom, he used Shuri Castle as a residence. At the same time, Shuri flourished as the capital, and continued to do so during the second Sho dynasty.

According to records, Shuri Castle burned several times, and was reconstructed each time. Before the war, it was designated a National Treasure, but during the war, the Japanese military set up its headquarters underground at the castle, and beginning on May 25, 1945, the American battleship Missouri and others shelled it for three days. On May 27 it burned.

After the war, the University of the Ryukyus moved to the castle site. In 1958, the Shureimon gate was rebuilt, and in 1992, the main building of the castle was reconstructed. At present, the entire area around the castle has been established as Shuri Castle Park. In 2000, along with other gusuku and related sites, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For 450 years from the beginning of the 15th century, it was the royal court and administrative center of the Ryukyuan Kingdom. It was the focal point of foreign trade, as well as the political, economical and cultural heart of the Ryukyus.

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