As most of you know, at about 2:40 a.m., October 31, 2019, Shuri Castle, the symbol of the Ryukyu Kingdom was destroyed in a massive blaze. Many of us here in Okinawa awoke to images of Seiden (the national palace) engulfed in flames.
As I’m writing this now, I looked at the coverage and felt that sinking in my chest. It is sad for us who live here, but for Uchinanchu (Okinawan people) who have lost so much, this was a devastating blow.
I have been to Shuri Castle and Park many times since I’ve come here. It is always a time to reflect on what it was like to live in a kingdom, to understand what life was like for the average person, or the noble. I heard on the news the other day (I have Okinawa Cable Network – OCN) that the castle grounds would be open again while construction begins.
As we are not allowed to travel off island, and that means all the other islands (Miyakojima, Ishigaki, Zamami among others) I figured it was an opportune time to go back and offer some yen to the economy.
It was a typical Saturday in June, humid, low 90’s but bearable. I am acclimated, which means that I surrender to the heat of Okinawa, and just sweat profusely, and don’t really notice it much anymore. A testament to my heat tolerance was wearing a hoodie and long pants with my Okinawa standard Crocs (for riding the scooter and shimazori’s for walking around).
The first thing I noticed was the smell of burned buildings. As a small town newspaper reporter, I was on the scene for many fires over the years, this was the smell. But it had been almost eight months, and it still lingered. I was very sad having seen the glory that it was and the scaffolding protecting the dairyuchu.
Many parts of the Ouchibara (the inner world of the castle grounds) were saved and protected and can be viewed and enjoyed however.
I just wanted to provide some pictures as an update for anyone who is not able to get there right now. When the world opens up again, please come and visit. Normally it’s 830 Yen, but currently it’s 400 Yen (about $3.75 USD).
All the information in this was from the brochure provided for free from Shuri Castle Park Management Center – http://oki-park.jp/shurijo/
I hope everyone is safe and socially distancing… and come back to Shurijo when you can. For all us in the karate world, think of all we have been given from this magical place, and think of what we can do to give a little back.
Take care of yourselves.