Shuri Castle Walls

Shuri castle

Shuri castle was the chief royal palace of the Kingdom of Ryûkyû, serving as the chief royal residence, political center of the kingdom, site of numerous rituals and ceremonies, and repository of numerous national heirlooms, official records and other artifacts.

Rebuilt beginning in 1992, following its destruction in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa, the castle grounds are now the nationally-funded "Shuri Castle Park". Along with a number of other gusuku and related sites across the island, Shuri Castle was designated a World Heritage Site in 2000 Ώ] .

Hacksaw Ridge And Shuri Castle WWII Sites – Okinawa, Japan

Earlier this year I saw the movie Hacksaw Ridge on an otherwise unmemorable flight. The movie recounts the story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector and WWII combat medic whose actions on Maeda Escarpment (Hacksaw Ridge) earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.

On a trip to Tokyo for Sakura season I made a detour to Okinawa for a weekend visit with my nephew who had been based there with the Marine Corps for almost three years. On his day off he showed me around Naha and southern Okinawa.

With my “little nephew,” 6𔃿″ SSgt Evan Polley, USMC at the viewing tower on top of the WWII Underground Japanese Navy Headquarters.

Being a WWII buff in younger days and with my interest piqued by the movie, I requested that we include sites of some of the fighting during the Battle of Okinawa, 1 April 1945 – 21 June 1945. This was the bloodiest and the last major land battle in the Pacific Theater. We were able to visit Shuri Castle, Hacksaw Ridge, and the Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters which by car are all within minutes of Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture.

Here are other posts about a truly spectacular trip to Japan:

Hacksaw Ridge – The Movie

The movie was released in 2016. It documents Doss’ upbringing in Lynchburg, VA as a devout Seventh-day Adventist and his military service in WWII. Despite refusing to kill or carry a weapon because of his religion and having a draft deferment due to working in a shipyard, Doss volunteered for military duty shortly after the United States entered WWII. In 1942, he became a medic assigned to 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 307th Regiment, 77th Infantry Division of the United States Army.

Doss’ religious beliefs make him an outcast among his fellow soldiers. They abuse him physically and mentally. This treatment persists until the 1st Battalion lands on Okinawa in 1945 and relieves another unit that had been trying unsuccessfully to dislodge Japanese forces on M aeda Escarpment. Japanese positions there posed a serious threat to American troops tasked with clearing the southern part of Okinawa where the bulk of the Japanese defenses were concentrated.

Maeda Escarpment (Hacksaw Ridge). U.S. troops would have had this perspective as they approached from the north.

Doss’ company uses cargo nets, ropes and ladders to ascend the sheer face of the ridge. Troops establish a foothold on top, but a ferocious Japanese counterattack drives them off the ridge the following day. Doss and many wounded are left on the battlefield. He is able to locate and treat many then lower them by rope to U.S. troops below.

The following day the attack resumes only after Doss completes his sabbath prayers. Again the fighting is fierce and bloody. Doss is wounded in close-quarters fighting when a Japanese soldier hurls a grenade at Doss and several companions. He bicycle kicks the grenade in mid air but it explodes nearby sending shrapnel into his leg. The wounds result in Doss being evacuated from the battle. The men and officers praise Doss for his courage and perseverance.

The movie was riveting but also raised questions. How could Doss move around in what must have been a fairly small area with little cover and lower wounded on ropes without being spotted and killed? How did he have the strength to belay around 75 wounded down a sheer cliff that looked to be more than 50′ high? Why didn’t anyone go up to help Doss? I thought seeing Hacksaw Ridge in person might answer some of those questions.

The True Story of Desmond Doss

On October 12, 1945, President Harry Truman presented Corporal Doss with the Medal of Honor at a ceremony at the White House. The citation dated November 1, 1945, describes Doss’ service on Okinawa:

G.O. No.: 97, November 1, 1945.

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following

Citation: Private First Class Desmond T. Doss, United States Army, Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division. Near Urasoe-Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, 29 April – 21 May 1945. He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Private First Class Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them one by one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On 2 May, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment and two days later he treated four men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within eight yards of enemy forces in a cave’s mouth, where he dressed his comrades’ wounds before making four separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On 5 May, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small-arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Private First Class Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On 21 May, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited five hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Private First Class Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers’ return, he was again struck, this time suffering a compound fracture of one arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Private First Class Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.

This chart depicts U.S. amphibious landings and principal lines of advance during the Battle of Okinawa.

Shuri Castle, Naha and Maeda Escarpment are on the southwest coast of Okinawa.

It turns out that the Medal of Honor wasn’t Doss’ first decoration for valor. In 1944, while serving on Guam and in the Philippines, Doss earned two Bronze Star Medals for exceptional courage in aiding wounded soldiers under fire. The actions for which Doss received those medals no doubt elevated his status with his fellow soldiers. Contrary to the movie, by the time his unit arrived on Okinawa, Doss was probably held in very high esteem.

Exploring Hacksaw Ridge

With the help of GPS, Evan located Hacksaw Ridge in a residential Naha suburb. It was only about a 15-minute drive from the center of the city. Our route brought us to the ridge from the north, the same general direction as the U. S. troops in 1945.

Maeda Escarpment now looks like any other small hill. Towering shear cliffs depicted in the movie are covered by thick vegetation. There are no signs on the street marking the site and its historical significance.

Maeda Escarpment in 2019

Before visiting I didn’t know that Maeda Escarpment is also the location of Urasoe Castle. The castle served as the capital of the medieval Okinawan principality of Chuzan until the unification of Okinawa and the Ryuku Islands into the Ryuku Kingdom in the 15th century. After unification, Shuri Castle was built and served as the seat of government.

Urasoe Castle ruins on the western end of Maeda Escarpment. The castle had been destroyed and abandoned centuries ago. Part of the north side of the ridge is also dotted with many ancient tombs some of which are visible in the second photo just below the top of the ridge on the left.

We parked in one of the few on-street parking spots and looked for a way up. We reached the top by following a small road near the castle ruins. Visitors can also access the top via narrow trails hidden among trees and bushes on the northern slope. There is no charge to visit this site.

Getting on top only increased my curiosity. The ridge is several hundred yards long and runs roughly east and west. It is fairly flat on top. At its widest point, Hacksaw Ridge is no more than 150 or so yards wide.

Vegetation has been removed so it is easy to walk around on top of Hacksaw Ridge. During the Battle of Okinawa, days of artillery, naval and aerial bombardment would have removed all vegetation.

How could anyone have been able to move around and lower injured soldiers down a cliff without being spotted?

Looking to the west along the length of the ridge. Only a handful of visitors were present.

The only mention of Doss was on one small sign explaining his heroics.

The sign marks the alleged point where Doss lowered the wounded.

Seeing this sign cleared up one of my questions. The Americans scaled the cliff at the eastern end, pivoted, and attacked to the west along the length of the ridge. I had the impression from the movie that the attack was a frontal assault across the width of the ridge.

The only other information I saw about the fighting in WWII was a sign related to the Japanese defenders.

Little evidence of the Japanese defensive positions remains.

Perhaps ruins from the castle complex or the entrance to a cave.

Even with vegetation in full bloom, Maeda Escarpment has excellent views of the surrounding terrain. During the Battle of Okinawa, control of this location would have been a prime objective for both armies. In the decades since the war, those views would have probably made the escarpment a prime objective of real estate developers. The presence of ancient Urasoe Castle and various tombs may be what has kept Hacksaw Ridge from becoming a housing development.

Northwest view from Hacksaw Ridge – Naha and the East China Sea.

Visiting Hacksaw Ridge answered some of my questions. Doss was able to save so many of his comrades because the battle progressed along the length of the ridge. Hacksaw Ridge looks to be around one-half mile long or slightly longer. The Japanese were apparently dug in around the castle ruins at the western end and the Americans ascended the escarpment at the eastern end. The battlefield was several hundred yards deep giving Doss the ability to maintain some distance from Japanese troops and find cover for his movements.

The cliff where Doss lowered the wounded is no more than 30′ to 40′ high. Lowering men by hand on a rope would have been a tough task but not as difficult as it appeared in the movie. I still do not know why one or two others did not go up to assist Doss at least with lowering the wounded he recovered. After all Doss was saving their buddies. Perhaps someone did and that part of the story has been lost to history. On the other hand, if the situation was so dangerous that no one else even dared to venture to the top, that makes Doss’ actions all the more extraordinary.

Doss on top of Maeda Escarpment (Hacksaw ridge) on 4 May 1945. Wiki photo

Shuri Castle

Before getting to Hacksaw Ridge, our first stop was Shuri Castle. Shuri Castle was constructed in the 15th century to serve as the seat of government of the newly formed Ryuku Kingdom. The Ryuku Kingdom lasted until 1879 when it was involuntarily incorporated into Japan as Okinawa prefecture.

I’m no expert on the relationship between Okinawa and Japan however, to this day, neither the Okinawans or the Japanese seem to consider Okinawans to be completely Japanese. During the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, Japanese troops executed many locals and forced many others, including boys and women, to join Japanese units to participate in the fighting.

The Shuri Castle complex covers a large area. Access to much of the grounds is free. Admission to the main palaces costs about $7.50/adult. Parking in underground lots is $3. Parking in nearby private lots is slightly more expensive.

Here is information on the admission price, location, hours of operation, and access options from Naha. This information is current as of August 2019.

During the WWII Battle of Okinawa, Shuri Castle was one of the focal points of the Shuri Line, the heavily defended Japanese defensive wall that stretched across the southern part of the island. The Japanese Army established its headquarters in a labyrinth built under the castle.

With Evan in front of Seiden Palace at Shuri Castle.

Beginning on 25 May 1945, an American battleship, the USS Mississippi, shelled Shuri Castle for three days straight. The shelling forced the Japanese to retreat and relocate their headquarters. Troops from the 1st Marine Division secured the castle on 29 May 1945.

The castle complex was almost totally destroyed in the fighting. After the war, the site was used as a university campus. Reconstruction of the walls and citadels began in 1992.

The grounds are large and beautifully landscaped. One could have a nice time here even without paying to enter the area of the main palaces. Here is a map of the grounds.

Naha view from the castle walls.

I did not see information on the fighting displayed at the castle. Nevertheless, visiting the castle provided great views and much interesting information on the history and culture of the Ryuku Kingdom.

Have you been to Okinawa or visited any other sites of combat in the Pacific Theater of WWII?

Shuri Castle Before and After the Fire

STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images Shuri Castle after a fire ripped through the World Heritage Site in Naha, on the island of Okinawa in southern Japan, on October 31, 2019

Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Japanese island of Okinawa, has had a rough existence. It served as the residence and religious hub of the Second Shō Dynasty, which ruled the southern Ryukyu Kingdom from the mid 15th century until its annexation by the Meiji government in 1879. Fire consumed the massive walled complex in 1453, 1660, and 1709, and each time it was rebuilt soon after. But after the castle suffered massive damage from shelling by the U.S. battleship Mississippi during World War II, reconstruction didn’t occur until the 1990s—only for another conflagration to claim six of the main buildings on Oct. 31.

The outer defensive wall of Shuri Castle

Sequence of defensive gateways within the walls of Shuri Castle

The Una, or courtyard, in front of the Seiden, or main hall (at right), where the kings of Ryukyu held court

Internal corridor at Shuri Castle

The walls and halls of Shuri Castle

Shuri Castle

The castle was originally founded somewhere in the 13-14th centuries. It was modified and expanded several times coming into its hieght of power during as a palace and fortress for the Ryukyu kings who established the unified Ryukyu kingdom in 1429. These kings ruled for abour 400 years until the Meiji government ousted the king in 1879 and established the prefecture of Okinawa. From 1609 the kingdom was under the control of the Satsuma clan and thereby the Tokugawa Shogunate but they kept some freedom regarding their relationships with China.

Obviously Shuri Castle was neither influenced by the same factors as typical mainland castles nor does it have many of the same structures or types of architecture. The castle and other related sites in the area were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.

Visit Notes

not personally visited, all the pictures were donated by readers. I would love to visit this and some of the other castles of Okinawa someday.

Shuri Castle's Other History: Architecture and Empire in Okinawa

The Ryūkyū Kingdom Festival (Ryūkyū ōchō matsuri), organized and sponsored by the Shuri Promotion Association (Shuri shinkōkai), is a fixture on Okinawa Prefecture&rsquos cultural and tourist calendar.

2008 Shuri Castle Festival poster

This one-day festival is one part of the larger Shuri Castle Festival (Shurijō sai) together, they celebrate the grandeur of the Ryūkyū Kingdom and its court traditions as a pure cultural past for the prefecture. 1 Of pivotal importance to these events is Shuri Castle itself. Not merely the stage on which festivities unfold, Shuri Castle &ndash with its vermillion architecture epitomized by its main hall (seiden) and Shurei Gate (Shurei mon), and its high, imposing ishigaki stone walls &ndash is cast as the very heart of Ryūkyūan culture. While this representation of the castle celebrates local culture, it is difficult to ignore the role it plays in Japan&rsquos continuing colonization of Okinawa. By suggesting that Ryūkyūan culture not only exists, but flourishes within the framework of the Japanese nation state, this representation plays an important part in a narrative that obfuscates the rupture of Japanese colonization of the Ryūkyū Kingdom and naturalizes Okinawa&rsquos inclusion into the modern Japanese nation state. 2

Nowhere is the assimilative nature of cultural valuation more stark than in the Japanese state&rsquos 1925 designation of Shuri Castle&rsquos main hall as a &ldquonational treasure&rdquo (kokuhō) of Japan. This designation is often lauded in the postwar as a sign of the Japanese state&rsquos early recognition of the value of Ryūkyūan culture, but it also deftly transformed a marker of a prior independence into a marker of inclusion. The official text explaining the designation reads:

This is the main hall of the former Shuri Castle, and it is the Ryūkyū&rsquos most important and largest piece of architecture &hellip The current building was built in the 14th year of Kyōhō (1730) and underwent substantial repairs in the 3rd year of Kōka (1837). It has a very large, multilayered hip-and-gabled roof, a step canopy (kōhai) in the front [and demonstrates] unique Ryūkyūan form and techniques. Even though its large pillars and the decorative feature (fun) of the bargeboard (karahafū) resemble Chinese style (kan shiki), the frog-leg strut (kaerumata) and dragon carvings below the step canopy&rsquos bargeboard carries the trace (obi) of the style of our Momoyama period [and is] extremely novel artisanship. 3

Assimilation is performed in several ways here. First, Shuri Castle&rsquos history is told in terms of Japanese reign names, mapping the castle&rsquos history onto a regime of Japanese temporality even though the Ryūkyū Kingdom at this time was, for all intents and purposes, an independent political entity. Second, while the designation recognizes the uniqueness of Ryūkyūan form and techniques and even acknowledges its resonance with continental styles, the text &ndash in the final analysis &ndash folds these features into a narrative of Japanese architectural history. By discovering in these Ryūkyūan/continental features the &ldquotrace&rdquo of &ldquoour Momoyama&rdquo style, the designation skillfully sublimates any Ryūkyūan uniqueness into a larger, encompassing, and original Japanese cultural universe, diffusing the critical potential in these markers of difference.

There was, however, another way in which this designation appropriated and assimilated Shuri Castle into the Japanese national imaginary. In order for Shuri Castle&rsquos main hall to be designated a national treasure in 1925, it was converted into the worshipper&rsquos hall of Okinawa Shrine. This completed the layout for Okinawa Shrine, and Shuri Castle spent the period 1925 to 1945 as &ldquoOkinawa Shrine,&rdquo a functioning node in the ideological universe of State Shinto, put into the service of the emperor-centered Japanese nation state. This transformation occurred in part because Japanese heritage preservation laws until 1932 stipulated that only Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple buildings could be designated &ldquospecially protected buildings&rdquo to receive state protection and funding as &ldquonational treasures.&rdquo The problem is that the argument that the castle&rsquos conversion was necessary for its preservation was privileged, both at the time as well as in our present, such that Shuri Castle&rsquos tenure as a Shinto shrine is overlooked and its significance downplayed. This article traces Shuri Castle&rsquos other history, to tell the story of its transformation into Okinawa Shrine in order to reveal the nakedness of the violence of Japanese colonialism as it is embedded in Shuri Castle.

The Silence around Okinawa Shrine

People have generally expressed surprise when I&rsquove posed the question, &ldquoDid you know that Shuri Castle used to be Okinawa Shrine?&rdquo This is not entirely surprising considering that histories of the castle &ndash including the castle&rsquos &ldquoofficial history&rdquo as it is told at the Shurijō Castle Park &ndash do not reference its past as Okinawa Shrine. What is curious, however, is that the castle&rsquos history as Okinawa Shrine is not exactly the object of a concerted campaign of silencing and obfuscation, with references to it readily available in the historical record. For instance, in prewar official inventories of national treasures compiled by the Home Ministry (Naimushō) which list all designated buildings and objects, Shuri Castle&rsquos main hall is listed as &ldquothe worshipper&rsquos hall of Okinawa Shrine&rdquo (Okinawa jinja haiden). 4 In a relatively recent compilation by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Bunkachō) of national treasures lost to war and disaster in the prewar period, the entry for Shuri Castle&rsquos main hall, razed to the ground as a result of American bombardment, was similarly listed as the worshipper&rsquos hall. 5 Thus as far as one version of the Japanese state&rsquos official record is concerned, &ldquoShuri Castle&rdquo does not actually exist in the period between 1925 and 1945, replaced instead by &ldquoOkinawa Shrine.&rdquo

Two different treatments of a photograph in a recent volume about Okinawa demonstrate what is at stake. The photograph in question dates from the 1920s and shows Yamazaki Masatada, a medical professor from Kyushu in front of Okinawa Shrine&rsquos main sanctuary (honden).

Yamazaki Masatada in front of Okinawa Shrine's main sanctuary. From Nonomura Takeo, Natsukashiki Okinawa

In a comment on the photograph, Nonomura Takao writes:

Considering the situation at the time, there was no other method of rescue except for the main hall to take on the name of Okinawa Shrine&rsquos worshipper&rsquos hall, thereby receiving financial aid from the state in the form of a repair budget. This was a turnaround for a building that was destined to be demolished, and there was the great repair in the early Shōwa period. This ingenious plan (myōan) was thought up by Itō Chūta, and was seen to extraordinary success by Sakatani Ryōnoshin. [The castle] was saved as Okinawa Shrine. As the worshipper&rsquos hall attached to the main sanctuary, Shuri Castle&rsquos main hall sidestepped the big wave of the time. 6

While all this is certainly true, this treatment deftly sublimates Shuri Castle&rsquos becoming Okinawa Shrine into the larger aim of preserving the main hall and effectively dismisses the transformation of the castle into the shrine as a significant event in its own right. By privileging a narrative of preservation, the meaning of the Shuri Castle&rsquos transformation into Okinawa Shrine is strait-jacketed into an argument in which the end (preservation) justifies the means.

The second treatment of this photo is in an essay discussing the role of old photographs in the restoration of Ryūkyūan architecture. 7 While the author acknowledges that the photograph is one of the few which exist of the shrine, he notes that the photograph&rsquos value lies in what it tells us of the area around the main sanctuary. He is interested in the information the photograph provides, but ignores the existence of the shrine itself. The castle&rsquos tenure as a Shinto shrine is present, even acknowledged when it surfaces, and yet those who come into contact with it seem able to ignore its existence and its implications. What was the reality of Okinawa Shrine, and what were the conditions of its emergence?

Shuri Castle in the early Meiji period

Until the early 15th century, the Ryūkyū Kingdom was divided into three competing power blocks, Hokuzan, Chūzan, and Nanzan. In 1429, Shō Hashi completed the unification of the kingdom and established Chuzan&rsquos hegemony over the other centers. The seat of his power was Shuri Castle, which remained the kingdom&rsquos political and sacerdotal center until 1879. Even before unification, the Ryūkyū Kingdom was already part of the Sinocentric world order as the lords of Hokuzan, Chūzan, and Nanzan sought political legitimacy and trading rights from the Ming emperor. Upon achieving unification, Shō Hashi received the Chinese court&rsquos investiture as the &ldquoKing of Ryūkyū&rdquo and the kingdom&rsquos submission to the Chinese empire (while maintaining political autonomy) became a dominant factor in Ryūkyūan life. The tribute relation was not only political, but was also economically profitable and transformed kingdom into a prosperous linchpin in an &ldquointra-Asia trade system&rdquo (Ajia ikinai kōei ken). 8 The kingdom subscribed to Chinese influence in other ways too as Chinese Confucianism became the dominant framework that governed political, social and ethical life. 9

In 1609, Tokugawa Japan&rsquos southernmost fief, Satsuma, invaded the Ryūkyū Kingdom as it sought to appropriate the profits from the kingdom&rsquos lucrative tribute trade. Satsuma could not impose its rule explicitly because it had to allow the kingdom to maintain an appearance of independence in order for that trade with China to continue. This resulted in the period of &ldquodual tribute&rdquo &ndash where the Ryūkyū Kingdom paid tribute to both China and Japan &ndash which effectively reduced the kingdom to poverty. 10 Despite its &ldquonon-explicit&rdquo overlordship, Satsuma&rsquos invasion marked the beginning of Japan&rsquos gradual colonization of the Ryūkyū Kingdom which culminated the Meiji state&rsquos formal annexation in the 1870s. The Meiji state began this process in 1872 by unilaterally converting the kingdom into &ldquoRyūkyū domain&rdquo (Ryūkyū han) and making Shō Tai (the last Ryūkyū king) into the &ldquodomain king&rdquo (han ō). In 1879, in what was termed the Ryūkyū Dispensation (Ryūkyū shobun), Meiji Japan annexed the Ryūkyū Kingdom, turning it into Japan&rsquos southernmost prefecture, Okinawa.

The imposition of Japanese colonial rule meant the absorption of the kingdom into Japan&rsquos administrative structure, a process which entailed the neutralization of the Ryūkyūan king as a symbol of independence and autonomy. When the Meiji state formally annexed the kingdom in 1879, it evicted Shō Tai from Shuri Castle and installed him as a member of the Japanese aristocracy in Tokyo. The seat of his power was not exempt from similarly radical change. Immediately after the annexation, the castle was converted into barracks for the Kumamoto Garrison (Kumamoto chindai bunkentai heiei), to become what Uemura Hideaki has called &ldquoRyūkyū/Okinawa&rsquos first foreign military base&rdquo in 1876. 11 It suffered much damage in this conversion as it was a process of displacement which broke existing meanings and replaced them with new significations in both the physical and symbolic registers. Maps of Shuri Castle from the 1880s demonstrate the symbolic violence of this displacement in stark terms. The visual force in an 1893 map of the garrison, for instance, lies in its demonstration of the garrison&rsquos complete takeover and redefinition of the site where even the buildings that were not in use were labeled &ldquoempty&rdquo (aki) or left shaded in the stripes as the building under use. 12

Map of the Garrison. From Okinawa hontō torishirabe sho (1893)

This conversion of the castle&rsquos space to new uses coincided with its destruction as a palace. During his visit in 1882, the traveler F.H.H. Guillemard noted that he thought that the main hall was &ldquoa holy of holies&rdquo but upon entering,

[a] more dismal sight could hardly have been imagined. We wandered through room after room, through corridors, reception halls, women&rsquos apartments, through the servant&rsquos quarters, through a perfect labyrinth of buildings, which were in such a state of indescribable dilapidation. The place could not have been inhabited for years. Every article of ornament had been removed the paintings on the frieze &ndash a favorite decoration with the Japanese and the Liu-kiuans have been torn down, or were invisible from dust and age &hellip In all directions the woodwork had been torn away for firewood, and an occasional ray of light from above showed that the roof was in no better condition than the rest of the building. From these damp and dismal memorials of past Liu-kiuan greatness it was a relief to emerge on an open terrace on the summit of one of the great walls &hellip 13

For Guillemard, the castle, along with any greatness of civilization it marked, was a thing of the past. His observation that &ldquothe place could not have been inhabited for years&rdquo establishes the scale of the dilapidation, but also removes Shuri Castle even further from the present. The castle&rsquos physical decline was tactile proof that the castle, and by extension, the Ryūkyū Kingdom itself, belonged to a different time, out of sync with the present of Meiji Japan. The castle became a double wound on the Okinawan landscape: its dilapidated presence reminded Okinawans that the Ryūkyū Kingdom was now a thing of the past, and that the eclipse of past greatness constituted the reality of the present. 14

Shuri Castle&rsquos physical decline created the conditions that broke the monopoly of meanings as a royal palace and opened it to redefinition, demonstrated in the calls for the palace site to be returned to the prefecture and converted into a site for popular pleasure. With the garrison&rsquos departure in 1896, Okinawans called for the return of the castle to local civilian use. In 1899, Shuri ward petitioned the central government that notions of social progress called for the development leisure facilities in Shuri Ward for local use and to attract visitors from other prefectures, but Okinawa Prefecture had not achieved this. 15 The solution, they proposed, lay with the castle site, arguing that it would be regrettable if the castle site &ndash &ldquothe beauty of the Ryūkyū Kingdom for several hundreds of years&rdquo &ndash was lost due to the current policy of abandonment. 16 The petition asked the government to give the castle site and its buildings to Shuri ward without cost. Tokyo denied this request. Shuri ward tried again a year later, but this time requested the sale of the buildings which the Home Ministry approved but only allowed the use of the land for a thirty-year period. 17 In 1909, Shuri ward petitioned the central government for the sale of the land and succeeded. 18 In this way, ownership of Shuri Castle and its land was returned to the prefecture thirty years after Shō Tai&rsquos eviction. Unfortunately the prefecture&rsquos poor finances prevented any plans from coming to fruition. The castle&rsquos main hall was so dilapidated that substantial and expensive restoration work would have been necessary simply to guarantee its structural integrity. Before the prefecture could raise the money, plans were already being made for the castle&rsquos site to be used as the precincts of Okinawa Shrine.

Okinawa Shrine

Okinawa Prefecture first proposed the establishment of a prefectural shrine in April 1910 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Meiji emperor&rsquos ascension. 19 The proposed shrine would install Minamoto no Tametomo, Shunten, and Shō Tai as its resident deities, selected because they were important historical figures (san dai ijin) for Okinawa Prefecture who &ldquomade clear&rdquo (meiryō naru) Okinawa&rsquos close relationship with mainland Japan. 20 However, the idea was abandoned because of the death of the Meiji emperor in 1912. The motion to establish a prefectural shrine resurfaced in 1914 and 1915, but was denied on both occasions. The 1914 proposal, which suggested establishing the prefectural shrine within the grounds of Naminoue Shrine, was rejected as &ldquoimpossible,&rdquo while the 1915 proposal was rejected because the deities the prefecture proposed &ndash Amamiko and Shinireku, both of which were mythical figures in Ryūkyūan folk beliefs &ndash were not recognized as part of the Shinto pantheon. The Home Ministry approved the establishment of &ldquoOkinawa Shrine&rdquo in March 31, 1923 for reasons that remain unclear and Shuri Castle was chosen as the site because it had been the historical center of Okinawa&rsquos politics and was intimately connected with the prefecture&rsquos &ldquocultural enlightenment.&rdquo 21

It is also possible that the Shuri Castle site was selected for financial reasons. The 1915 proposal budgeted 10,000 yen for developing a 3,443 tsubo site (approximately 2.8 acres) in Mawashi-cho, out of which 4,250 yen was slated for roads and other infrastructural costs. 22 The proposed site was close to Shuri Castle, and maps from the period indicate a densely populated area interspersed with relatively large, aristocratic estates. That half the budget was set aside for infrastructure and other costs suggests that the site was quite costly to develop. 23 By contrast, the Shuri Castle site was largely available, even though part of it was being used by the Shuri First Primary School and Shuri Girls&rsquo Craft School. Construction began in September 1923, and the shrine&rsquos main sanctuary was constructed behind the castle&rsquos main hall. Given its poor condition, the decision was made to demolish the castle&rsquos main hall so that a new worshipper&rsquos hall could be built on its site in order to complete the spatial layout of Okinawa Shrine.

It is at this moment on the brink of physical erasure that Shuri Castle&rsquos fortunes turned, almost entirely by chance. Kamakura Yoshitarō, a teacher who had spent some time in Okinawa, was visiting with friends in Tokyo one day in early 1924 when he noticed a newspaper article reporting the main hall&rsquos demolition. 24 Kamakura recounts that he rushed immediately to see Itō Chūta, the eminent architect with whom he was acquainted. 25 Itō had never seen the castle itself, but knew that it was an important building. 26 Itō in turn called on the Home Ministry and succeeded in halting the demolition. 27 Concerned with securing both permanent protection for the main hall as well as official funding for its repair, Itō set out with Kamakura in the summer of 1924 on a month-long study trip to Okinawa.

In his account of his role in saving the main hall, Itō makes special mention of the main hall&rsquos dilapidated condition. 28 He notes that Okinawan authorities were keen to repair the building, even though the impoverished prefecture could not afford such a project. Unable to bear the loss of this &ldquoenormous building with deep pedigree,&rdquo efforts to raise funds for the building&rsquos repairs continued even as the castle&rsquos inner courtyard was slated to be given over to the new Okinawa Shrine. Itō&rsquos account stoked the drama of the moment:

&hellip it was a large sum of money, and there was no way to acquire it. With flowing tears, there was the realization that there was nothing else that could be done except to abandon (migoroshi suru) the main hall. 29

From a photograph of the main hall, Itō said that he knew that it was a &ldquorepresentative masterpiece of Ryūkyūan architecture,&rdquo and after succeeding in halting the demolition and saving it from the &ldquobrink of death&rdquo (kyūshi ni isshō), Itō took it upon himself to see what he could do to further preserve the main hall. He writes,

I had to think of a concrete plan of how to save this almost dead (hinshi) patient. Before doing anything, there was the urgent task (kyūmu) of diagnosing the patient&rsquos condition. One aspect of my research in Ryūkyū was this important mission. 30

Itō&rsquos assessment of his position was twofold: &ldquoAside from welcoming me as a researcher of Ryūkyū, many Okinawan officials and civilians also welcomed me as the doctor (ishi) of Shuri Castle&rsquos main hall.&rdquo 31 Itō&rsquos account conveys the urgency of his mission in which saving the castle took top priority, but his claim that he was welcomed by Okinawa officials and civilians adds an important dimension by implying the approval and support for his plans of Okinawans.

At the end of his study, Itō proposed that Shuri Castle&rsquos main hall be used as the worshipper&rsquos hall of Okinawa Shrine, thereby qualifying it for permanent state protection under the 1897 Old Shrines and Temples Preservation Act. The local newspaper carried an article with the headline: &ldquoShuri Castle&rsquos Preservation, The main hall becoming the worshipper&rsquos hall of Okinawa Shrine through the Shrine and Temple Preservation Law after receiving recognition as a prefectural shrine and receiving the Home Ministry&rsquos support is a good plan in Professor Itō&rsquos opinion.&rdquo 32 The article noted that this was the best way for the main hall to receive the repairs it badly needed, and thanks to &ldquoProfessor Itō&rsquos efforts (rō),&rdquo Okinawa&rsquos famous site would now be preserved. A photograph of the repaired main hall testifies to the castle&rsquos new doubled reality: two plaques hang at the entrance to the hall, mark it as both a &ldquonational treasure&rdquo and &ldquoworshipper&rsquos hall&rdquo.

Detail, Showing "kokuhō" plaque on left, and "haiden" plaque on right.

The significance of Okinawa Shrine

As Itō&rsquos commentary and the treatments of the photograph with Yamazaki that I began this essay with demonstrate, there is a strong desire to apprehend the moment of the castle&rsquos main hall&rsquos designation in terms of its preservation while ignoring its incorporation as part of Okinawa Shrine. Through the use of medical tropes and the drama of the situation, Itō successfully conveys that he was most concerned with the preservation the castle&rsquos buildings. My intention is not to challenge this Itō certainly had a deep and abiding love for buildings and spent his career committed to their preservation. However, to neglect the transformation of the main hall into the shrine&rsquos worshipper&rsquos hall surely misses the point at best. At worst, it marks the success of erasure in which the ideological machinations that enable Shuri Castle&rsquos transformation into Okinawa Shrine are misrecognized as unimportant and regarded as irrelevant. 33 To focus only on the preservation aspect of the 1925 designation echoes the constitutive logic in colonial power that seeks to obfuscate the arbitrariness and violence of its rule. Here, the violence of transforming Shuri Castle into Okinawa Shrine achieves the perfect cover behind the lofty goals of heritage preservation.

How then to read the moment of the 1925 designation, against the hegemonic desire to render it a triumph for heritage preservation, in order to recover Okinawa Shrine as a site of violence? The context of prewar State Shinto provides an important starting point. By becoming a Shinto shrine, Shuri Castle&rsquos space was absorbed into the ideological universe of State Shinto and disciplined by its particular logic. Following the Council of State&rsquos (Dajōkan) declaration of &ldquothe unity of government and rites&rdquo (saisei icchi) on March 13, 1869, the Meiji state promulgated a decree stating that Shinto shrines &ldquoconstitute[d] the rites of the state&rdquo (jinja wa kokka no sōshi nari) on May 14, 1871. 34 These measures defined Shinto as the national religion and established Shinto shrines as privileged spaces in the political life of the Japanese nation state. The role that the Grand Shrine of Ise played in the prewar era exemplifies the effect of this configuration: worshipping at the specific site of Ise Shrine was a mode of conduct for loyal Japanese imperial subjects to contribute to maintaining the health of the national polity. 35

One of the most prolific theoreticians of the role of shrines in State Shinto and their relationship to Japanese national identity was none other than Itō Chūta, the &ldquosavior&rdquo of Shuri Castle&rsquos main hall. Beginning with his involvement in the construction of Heian Shrine in Kyoto to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of transferring the capital to Kyoto, Itō designed and built a significant number of imperial Japan&rsquos most important Shintō shrines. 36 Professionally, Itō was the Home Ministry&rsquos special consultant for constructing Shintō shrines from 1898, leading Maruyama Shigeru to observe that Itō&rsquos official position in the bureaucracy was a way in which architecture was placed in the service of the nation state. 37 Itō developed his ideas about Shintō shrines and their role in State Shinto in many articles, regarding shrines as the physical representations of the link between the imperial house and the Japanese nation state. He argued that while Shinto bore some similarities with Chinese Taoism or Central Asian religions, Shinto shrines were uniquely &ldquoJapanese&rdquo because they were for the worship of the Japanese imperial house and its imperial ancestors. 38 Shinto shrines were, in other words, spaces that referenced the emperor and by extension, the imperial Japanese nation state.

Far from being simply a staging ground of Shinto, shrine buildings could channel individual emotion and feeling to focus on the worship of the imperial house. 39 Itō considered &ldquoideal&rdquo (risō) shrine architecture to fulfill two different aims. 40 The first, material aim was functional: buildings and structures had to be easy to use in a practical sense. More importantly however, was shrine architecture&rsquos second, spiritual dimension, which referred to their ability to manifest the spirit that repaid one&rsquos ancestors for their gratitude, to return people&rsquos hearts to the past, and to return to the fundamentals of the country. 41 Itō&rsquos ideas about the relationship of architecture and national identity, as well as his position on Shinto shrines as a specific site of Japanese national identity means that he was not a politically neutral actor when it came to Shinto shrines. Itō&rsquos actions brought the central cultural symbol of the Ryūkyū Kingdom into State Shinto. This must in turn, at the very least, raise questions about Itō&rsquos intentions in proposing the transformation of Shuri Castle&rsquos main hall, and destabilize the comfortable narrative of salvation and preservation that Itō and others have cast the process as.

The Home Ministry regulated Shinto shrines strictly: not only who could establish a shrine and when, but also the very shape and content of shrine precincts. These regulations applied to the top-ranking national and government shrines as well as the prefectural and village shrines at the bottom of the shrine hierarchy. 42 The Home Ministry listed seven structures that a shrine would have to include: the main sanctuary (honden), its surrounding fence, a torii, a worshipper&rsquos hall (haiden), hall for food offerings (shinsenjo), temizuya, and shrine offices. 43 These specifications constitute a set of rules by the Japanese state to govern the space of Shinto shrines. Each of the seven structures served a specific function and shrines without them were not recognized as shrines. 44 The radical alteration to Shuri Castle&rsquos space that resulted from its use as Okinawa Shrine is illustrated in a map titled &ldquoOld Shuri Castle&rdquo (Kyū Shurijō) which shows the castle&rsquos original buildings overlaid with the new shrine&rsquos buildings, including the seven structures that the Home Ministry deemed necessary.

Map of Okinawa Shrine precints, showing new and old buildings. Kyū Shurijō

Seen this way, it becomes clear that Shuri Castle&rsquos transformation into a Shinto shrine was not simply about the transformation of its physical space, but rather the transposition of the castle into a spatial economy centered on the Japanese nation state.

This new configuration of space imposed a particular regime of bodily practices that regulated the conduct of those who entered it.

The main hall as Okinawa Shrine's worshipper's hall. From Shashinshu Okinawa

A torii at the northwest corner of the courtyard demarcated the shrine&rsquos precincts, a line in the sand that marked the beginning of sacred space. In the courtyard, there was a small structure on the left, stone lanterns at the bottom of the stairs, an offering box at the entrance to the hall, and a braided rope above it. The small structure is the temizuya, where one washed one&rsquos hands before approaching the worshipper&rsquos hall. Going up the stairs, one stopped in front of the offering box and threw in a coin. One then performed the proper ritual combination of claps and bows to approach the gods deified in the main sanctuary. The braided rope above the offering box marked off the space it encloses as sacred, the hall and the area behind off limits to the profane masses.

Okinawa Shrine enshrined five deities: Minamoto no Tametomo, Shunten, Shō En, Shō Kei, and Shō Tai. As Torigoe has noted, the deification of Minamoto no Tametomo and his son Shunten emphasized Okinawa&rsquos ethnic and blood proximity to mainland Japan and the legend of Tametomo and Shunten is worth recounting briefly here. 45 After the Hōgen Rebellion, Tametomo &ndash a direct descendent of the 56th emperor Seiwa &ndash supposedly fled from the victorious Heike and escaped to the Ryūkyū Islands. There he fathered a son, Shunten, with the daughter of a local chief who rose to power as the island&rsquos first king the 12th century. Scholars like Hagashionna Kanjun have shown that the Tametomo story (and Shunten&rsquos reign, for that matter) have no documentary evidence, but note that they have a long history of circulation as legends. 46 Scholars agree that the first mention of the legend is in the Buddhist monk Taichū&rsquos Ryūkyū shintō ki (1605), but was established as part of the official record of the Ryūkyū Kingdom by Shō Shōken in his Chusan seikan (1650) and in turn popularized in Japan by Arai Hakuseki in his Nantō shi. 47 The political potential of this narrative &ndash that casts the Ryūkyū royal family and the institution of Ryūkyūan kingship as descendents of the Japanese imperial family &ndash for assimilating Okinawa is obvious and it was reproduced frequently in novels, school textbooks, and studies of Okinawa history in the prewar period. 48

What Torigoe does not discuss, however, is that the deification of the three Ryūkyūan kings was a similarly powerful, politically inclusionary move on Japan&rsquos part. Shō En (r. 1470-1476) founded the second Shō dynasty under his rule the Ryūkyū Kingdom shifted from government by the individual monarch to an institutionally based rule which contributed to its longevity. 49 Shō Kei (r. 1713-1751) oversaw a cultural golden age in which the kingdom&rsquos best-known Confucian intellectual Sai On flourished. 50 Shō Tai&rsquos reign saw the Ryūkyū Kingdom enter into formal Japanese control, cast in the prewar as opening the way for the modernization of Okinawa. Taken together these five deities speak to the appropriation of both the Ryūkyū Kingdom&rsquos legendary past (Minamoto and Shunten) and its recorded history represented by the other three: Shō En founded the Second Shō Dynasty in which Shō Kei&rsquos reign marked its high point, with Shō Tai marking its end. The deification of these five figures folds the beginning and the end of the Ryūkyū Kingdom&rsquos history into the frame of State Shinto, and by extension, into the frame of the Japanese nation state and national imaginary.

How important or effective was the Okinawa Shrine? Did it register in the minds of Okinawan people as a site of State Shinto and what might this have meant to them? On the one hand, a 1936 report by Shuri city noted that &ldquothe number of worshippers increased every year, such that the sense of respect [for the national polity] has now gradually deepened.&rdquo 51 On the other hand, Torigoe notes that worshippers were rarely seen at Okinawa Shrine, and he sees this as evidence of the forced nature of the Okinawa Shrine&rsquos establishment and its disjuncture with what Okinawan popular religion. 52 Okinawa Shrine&rsquos relative unpopularity seems to be borne out by records in the Okinawaken jinja meisai cho, which lists the details of twelve shrines in Okinawa prefecture, including each shrine&rsquos history, acreage, number of buildings, and the number of registered worshippers. 53 Okinawa Shrine&rsquos 4,914 ujiko households do not appear to be an insignificant number, especially when compared to Sueyoshi Shrine&rsquos mere 160 ujiko households. 54 However, Okinawa Shrine&rsquos numbers pale in comparison to Yomochi Shrine&rsquos 126,430 sūkeisha households. 55 Given these numbers, it is likely that Okinawa Shrine was hardly the most popular and most-visited of shrines, demonstrating the distance that Okinawan people felt from State Shinto as a whole.

However, to assess Okinawa Shrine&rsquos importance only in terms of the numbers of worshippers misses out on an important way in which spaces operate, and neglects how the particular space of the Shinto shrine functions. In particular, it misses how some spaces affect their environment simply by virtue of their presence, regardless of how resident populations feel about them. Overseas Shinto shrines (kaigai jinja), established in Japanese colonies (colonized Korea, Taiwan) as well as in locales with significant Japanese populations (Honolulu) illustrate this point. Overseas shrines were originally established for Japanese nationals in foreign lands as sites to connect ideologically and spiritually with the Japanese mainland, but many scholars have shown how overseas shrines also served as physical reminders of Japanese state power in the colonies for local populations. 56 In addition to practices like compulsory visitations, which forced upon local populations a consciousness of the presence and function of the shrines, these shrines, often in geographically prominent sites (as in the case of Chosen Shrine, Taiwan Shrine, and Okinawa Shrine) were hard to ignore as sites on the landscape. A colonized population&rsquos participation at shrines allows us to comment on the role these shrines played in people&rsquos lives, but it is also important to pay attention to other reactions that local populations had to the space. These include non-participation at the shrines (except under duress) or their outright rejection of State Shinto, both of which do not necessarily render the shrines as unimportant or ineffective spaces.

Hildi Kang&rsquos collection of oral histories from Korea under Japanese colonial rule includes accounts by people who talk about how they rejected State Shintō, but were forced to visit the shrines anyway. One of the most provocative vignettes however is a short account by a housewife who recalled: &ldquoThe Pusan Shrine stood on top of the hill near the pier. We climbed up there many times, on holidays, but only for picnics. A beautiful view.&rdquo Even though this individual did not visit Pusan shrine to worship, she was clearly aware of how the space had been marked. 57 Pusan Shrine existed as a place of worship even if people choose not to enter it or to use for other purposes, a space that local populations were forced to take into account, whether in confrontational ways or otherwise. In this sense, a lack of visitors or worshippers to Okinawa Shrine because of resistance to State Shinto or from indifference does not necessarily render the space ineffective. Okinawans&rsquo failure to embrace the castle site as &ldquoOkinawa Shrine,&rdquo while signifying their lack of interest in participating in State Shinto, also reflects the success of that project in alienating the castle as a site of meaning for Okinawan people.

Let me return to the photograph of the shrine&rsquos main sanctuary with which I began this essay and the question that it raised: what might account for this condition which allows for one aspect of the photograph to be noticed and not the other? In other words, what determines how historical materials and its &ldquofacts&rdquo are used? One possible explanation is that this is another effect of the Battle of Okinawa, which resulted in the death of between a quarter and a third of Okinawa&rsquos population and the total destruction of its capital, Naha and much of the built environment of southern and central Okinawa. In addition to the loss of life, many of the materials that constitute a historical archive were lost. The result has been a paucity of materials about Okinawa&rsquos history, and this exerts a certain pressure on materials that do exist. While the prefectural and village governments, tertiary institutions, and libraries in Okinawa are involved in an ongoing effort to collect and inventory what remains, the paucity of materials is a stark reality. 58 In this context, the value of existing materials increases because they are (possibly) some of the only surviving traces of an &ldquooriginal&rdquo Okinawa. Alongside attempts to preserve what remains, there is a significant preoccupation with recovering the Okinawan past that was lost as a result of the war. This desire to recapture what was lost affects the treatment of historical materials from the prewar period, and creates a tension that the project to rebuild Shuri Castle illustrates.

Calls for the castle&rsquos rebuilding, which began in earnest in the 1970s, cast the rebuilding as the recovery of an important piece of Ryūkyūan cultural heritage as well as the repayment of a debt the mainland owed Okinawa for its sacrifices in WWII. 59 Advocates for the rebuilding appropriated then-prime minister Sato Eisaku&rsquos proclamation that &ldquoJapan&rsquos postwar will not be over until Okinawa reverts to the mainland&rdquo and turned it into the slogan &ldquoOkinawa&rsquos postwar will not be over until Shuri Castle is rebuilt.&rdquo This clever adaptation intended to demonstrate how important the rebuilding was to Okinawans by inserting Shuri Castle into a larger discussion about Okinawa&rsquos relationship with mainland Japan and making the castle a symbol of that process. The push for the rebuilding gained official sanction in 1982 in the Second Okinawa Development Plan. In 1984, Okinawa Prefecture released the Shuri Castle Park Basic Plan (Shurijō kōen kihon keikaku) and a committee under the auspices of the National Okinawa Commemorative Park Office took charge of Shuri Castle&rsquos rebuilding. 60

The committee&rsquos first and most important task was the rebuilding of the castle&rsquos main hall. According to one of the architects involved in the rebuilding, the committee had very little sense of what Shuri Castle looked like. 61 The committee spent much of their first year gathering materials &ndash including Kamakura Yoshitarō&rsquos photographs and notes, and Tanabe Yasushi&rsquos 1937 monograph Ryūkyū Kenchiku &ndash and analyzing them in order to produce an accurate model of the main hall. A significant body of materials were the project reports from the castle&rsquos/Okinawa Shrine&rsquos 1932 restoration. Labeled &ldquoWorshipper&rsquos Hall Okinawa Shrine&rdquo [figs. 7 and 8], these were extensive plans of the main/worshipper&rsquos hall structural detail. As a way to express their intentions for the project, the committee coined the following motto: &ldquoTo regenerate the main hall that had been rebuilt in 1712 and designated a national treasure in 1925.&rdquo 62

Project reports from 1932 restoration of main hall/worshipper's hall. Labeled "National Treasure Architecture Okinawa Shrine Worshipper's Hall" from Kokuhō jūyō bunkazai kenchikubutsu zushū

Project reports from 1932 restoration of main hall/worshipper's hall. Labeled "National Treasure Architecture Okinawa Shrine Worshipper's Hall" from Kokuhō jūyō bunkazai kenchikubutsu zushū

This motto illustrates something of how present demands and desires to recover a lost past impacts the treatment of historical materials related to that past, for what would it mean to take this motto seriously? The committee intended the motto to signal their commitment to an authentic reconstruction of Shuri Castle &ndash that is, the castle as it existed since its last rebuilding in 1712 after a fire, the same one recognized by the Japanese state as culturally valuable in 1925. 63 However, the motto actually exceeds these intentions because it gestures at much more than the castle itself by invoking Japan&rsquos colonial encounter with the Ryūkyū Kingdom. The period from 1712 to 1925 in Ryūkyū-Japan relations is dominated by the story of Japanese colonialism and the Ryūkyū Kingdom&rsquos loss of autonomy, first through the system of dual tribute and then through formal Japanese annexation that culminated in 1879. The nature of this relationship left its trace on Shuri Castle too: because the Ryūkyū Kingdom did not have enough materials due to its increased impoverishment, the 1712 rebuilding could proceed only after Satsuma fief presented the kingdom with over 19,000 logs of wood. Many of materials the committee used from the Meiji period and after &ndash especially Kamakura&rsquos photographs [figs. 9 and 10] &ndash show not a glorious architectural structure but are rather visual proof of the castle&rsquos decay and destruction. The materials from the restoration of &ldquoOkinawa Shrine&rsquos Worshipper&rsquos Hall,&rdquo labeled as such, have the potential to raise difficult questions about the transformation of the castle&rsquos space into a Shinto shrine and the political aims this served. One need only scratch the surface for the materials to tell a story of Japanese colonialism and its damage to Shuri Castle. What is so interesting about this motto is that if we were to take it seriously &ndash that is, to engage with it in all its implications as a principle to produce knowledge about Shuri Castle &ndash is that it invites attention to the violence and arbitrariness of Japanese colonialism, the very things that need to be managed if the narrative of Okinawa&rsquos inclusion into the Japanese nation state is to be cast as a natural, seamless, and beneficial one.

Kamakura Yoshitarō's photograph of Shuri Castle's main hall. From Kamakura Yoshitarō, Okinawa Bunka no iho

Kamakura Yoshitarō's photograph of Shuri Castle courtyard in front of main hall. From Kamakura Yoshitarō, Okinawa Bunka no iho

And yet, despite the motto&rsquos potential to destabilize, the realities of the conditions of Shuri Castle&rsquos existence in the period between 1712 and 1925 slip from the committee&rsquos view as they made choices about what to recognize in the materials and what to ignore. Dominated by the desire to regenerate the castle, Shuri Castle&rsquos multiple histories entered into a calculation where not all elements of the historical document are accorded equal value. Instead they are subject to a certain &ldquopolitical arithmetic&rdquo based on the demands of the present. The treatments of the photograph of Yamazaki and the shrine&rsquos main sanctuary are examples of this: the photograph is valorized not for what it says about the shrine, but for the information that it provides of the area around it. This is, of course, a reasonable use of the photo, but in the process we see how Shuri Castle&rsquos other history &ndash which has the potential to destabilize comfortable narratives about the castle&rsquos cultural value and raise questions about how the castle was used in schemes to naturalize Japanese colonialism &ndash is quietly lost in the demands of the present.

Tze M. Loo is assistant professor of history at the University of Richmond. She wrote this article for The Asia-Pacific Journal.

Recommended citation: Tze M. Loo, "Shuri Castle's Other History: Architecture and Empire in Okinawa," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 41-1-09, October 12, 2009.

1 In 2005, the chairperson of the Shuri Castle Festival planning committee noted that &ldquoThe Shuri Castle Festival is being fixed as the event that transmits (hasshin) the culture of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. [We would like] through colorful events, to deepen understanding towards Okinawan culture.&rdquo &ldquoShurijō sai 10-gatsu 28-30 nichi ni kaisai kettei,&rdquo Ryūkyū shinpō, September 7, 2005.
2 This is similar to the observation that Laura Hein and Mark Selden make regarding the use of Shurei Gate on the 2000-yen banknote. They suggest that &ldquoby appropriating Shuri Castle as a symbol of Japanese nationhood suitable to grace the currency, Tokyo is again asserting control over Okinawans and subordinating them to the nation.&rdquo Laura Hein and Mark Selden (eds.), Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003) 12. Gerald Figal has recently shown how constructions of the Ryūkyūan past are part of a complicated recasting of Okinawa as a tourist destination. See his &ldquoBetween War and Tropics: Heritage Tourism in Postwar Okinawa,&rdquo The Public Historian 30 (May 2008), 83-107.
3 &ldquoShin shitei tokubetsu hogo kenzōbutsu gaisetsu,&rdquo Kenchiku zasshi, May 1925, No. 39, Vol. 470, 31.
4 Kuroita Katsumi, ed., Tokukenkokuhō mokuroku (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1927).
5 Bunkachō, Sensai tō ni yoru shōshitsu bunkazai: nijisseiki no bunkazai kakochō (Tokyo: Ebisukosho shuppan, 2003).
6 Nonomura Takao (ed.), Shashinshū Natsukashiki Okinawa: Yamazaki Masatada ra ga aruita Shōwa shoki no genfūkei (Naha: Ryūkyū shinpōsha, 2000), 14.
7 Taira Hiromu, &ldquoRyūkyū kenchiku no fukkō to koshashin no yakuwari&rdquo in Nonomura Takao, Natsukashiki Okinawa: Yamazaki Masatada ra ga aruita Shōwa shōki no genfūkei (Naha: Ryūkyū shinpōsha, 2000), 44-47.
8 Hamashita Takeshi and Kawakatsu Heita (eds.), Ajia kōekiken to nihon kōgyōka, 1500-1900 (Tokyo: Riburo pōto, 1991) 9.
9 Gregory Smits has traced the way that Ryūkyūan court cultivated increasingly &ldquoChinese&rdquo and Confucian representations and practice of kingship of the sage king, which included the decoupling of the Ryūkyūan king&rsquos power from its historical relationship with the powerful female priestesses in Ryūkyūan religion. Iyori Tsutomu has traced how the changes in the architecture of Shuri Castle&rsquos main hall (specifically looking at the changes to the bargeboard above the main hall&rsquos canopy) were part of this policy of suppression. Gregory Smits, &ldquoAmbiguous Bounderies: Redefining Royal Authority in the Kingdom of Ryukyu,&rdquo Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 60 (June 2000), 89-123 Iyori Tsutomu, &ldquoRyūkyū ōken no basho: Shurijō seiden karahafu no tanjō to sono kaishu ni tsuite,&rdquo Kenchikushi gaku 31 (1998), 4-6
10 George Kerr suggests that the Ryūkyū Kingdom saw its income reduced by more than half, from 200,000 koku to 80,000. George H. Kerr, Okinawa: The History of an Island People: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1975), 179.
11 Hideaki Uemura, &ldquoThe Colonial Annexation of Okinawa and the Logic of International Law: The formation of an &lsquoindigenous people&rsquo in East Asia,&rdquo Japanese Studies 23 (2003), 120.
12 Okinawa ken (ed.), Okinawa hontō torishirabe sho meiji 26-nen, 1893.
13 F. H. H. Guillemard, The Cruise of the Marchesa to Kamschtka and New Guinea. With notices of Formosa, Liu-kiu, and various islands of the Malay Archipelago (London: John Murray, 1886), 58-59. Italics are mine.
14 This is perhaps not dissimilar form Orhan Pamuk&rsquos exploration of the the effect of Ottoman ruins as reminders of past greatness on Turks today and the melancholy (hüzün) that results from it. Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul Memories of the City (New York: Knopf, 2006).
15 &ldquoKyū Shurijōseki nami kenbutsu haraisage seigan no gi nitsuki ikensho&rdquo in Maehira Bōkei, &ldquoKindai no Shurijō,&rdquo in Yomigaeru Shurijō: rekishi to fukugen Shurijō fukugen kinenshi (Naha: Shurijō fukugen kiseikai, 1993), 276-277.
16 &ldquoWe would like to use this land as a park, turn the buildings into a museum, establish an entertainment area displaying hundreds of things beginning with tropical plants that are different from that of other prefectures, and historical treasures that are different from places whose development is different. This is in planning for public leisure, but at the same time, to encourage economic development through foreigners who visit, to start the development of [our] civilization.&rdquo &ldquoKyu Shurijōseki nami kenbutsu haraisage seigan no gi nitsuki ikensho.&rdquo
17 &ldquoKanyūchi kariuke oyobi kenbutsu kaishū no ken&rdquo in Ryūkyū shinpō, January 29, 1903. Also in Maehira, &ldquoKindai no Shurijō,&rdquo277. See also &ldquoShurijō jisho taifu nami kenbutsu haraisage no ken,&rdquo Rikugun sho dainikki meiji 38-nen, National Archives of Japan.
18 The land was sold for 1514 yen 15 sen. Maehira, &ldquoKindai no Shurijō,&rdquo 278.
19 The information in this paragraph summarizes parts of Torigoe Kenzaburō&rsquos Ryūkyū shūkyōshi no kenkyū (Tokyo: Kadokawa shoten, 1965), esp. 655-660.
20 &ldquoKensha sonsha kensetsu riyūsho&rdquo in Torigoe Kenzaburō, Ryūkyū shukyoshi no kenkyū, 655. For the Minamoto&rsquos relationship to the Ryūkyū islands, see George H. Kerr, Okinawa: The History of an Island People: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1975).
21 Jinja kyōkai zasshi, 22:5 (1923), 34. Okinawa ken jinja meisai chō, Okinawa Prefectural Library collection, publication date unknown.
22 Figures are given in Torigoe, Ryūkyū shūkyōshi no kenkyū, 659. He set the costs for the construction of the buildings at 5000 yen.
23 Torigoe notes that the prefecture&rsquos attempt to raise funds from among Okinawans for the shrine in 1914 failed. He took this as an indicator of the shallowness of Okinawans&rsquo civilization and cultural development (mindō), as well as a lack of interest in establishing the prefectural shrine. Torigoe, Ryūkyū shūkyōshi no kenkyū, 659.
24 Kamakura Yoshitarō, Okinawa bunka no ihō (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1982), 61. Kamakura does not note the title of the article he saw, but it was likely &ldquoOkinawa ōchō no Shurijō wo torikowashi okinawa jinja konryū,&rdquo Kagoshima mainichi shimbun, 25 March 1924. See also Itō Chūta, &ldquoRyūkyū kikō,&rdquo in Kengaku kikō (Tokyo: Ryūgin sha, 1936), 31.
25 Kamakura&rsquos account can be found in his Okinawa bunka no ihō (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1982).
26 Itō Chūta, &ldquoRyūkyū kikō,&rdquo Kagaku chishiki 5 (1925), 31.
27 He achieved this with an emergency provisional designation under the 1919 Historic Sites, Places of Scenic Beauty, and Natural Monuments Preservation Law.
28 Itō, &ldquoRyūkyū kikō,&rdquo 30.
29 Itō, &ldquoRyūkyū kiko,&rdquo 31.
30 Itō, &ldquoRyūkyū kikō,&rdquo 31.
31 Itō, &ldquoRyūkyū kikō,&rdquo 31.
32 &ldquoKensha no nintei wo etaru ato shajihozonhō ni yotte seiden wo okinawa jinja no haiden tonashi naimushō no iji ni yoru no ga tokusaku Itō hakushi no iken,&rdquo Ryūkyū Shinpō, 9 August 1924. The text of this article is reproduced in Yoshiike Fumie, &ldquo&lsquoFirudo noto dai 22 kan ryukyi&rsquo wo moto ni,&rdquo Masters thesis, Kyoto Institute of Technology, 2006, 177.
33 Ernesto Laclau&rsquos observation that &ldquo[t]he ideological would not consist of the misrecognition of a positive essence, but exactly the opposite: it would consist of the non-recognition of the precarious nature of any positivity, of the impossibility of any ultimate suture&rdquo is theoretically instructive here. Ernesto Laclau, &ldquoThe Impossibility of Society&rdquo in his New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Times (London: Verso, 1997), 92.
34 Wilbur Fridell, &ldquoThe establishment of Shrine Shinto in Meiji Japan,&rdquo Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 2 (1975), 143. Helen Hardacre gives a slightly different translation of this phrase: &ldquoshrines as offering the rites of nation.&rdquo Hardacre, Shinto and the State 1868-1988, 97.
35 See for instance Hiroike Chikuro, Ise jingu to waga kokutai (Tokyo: Nichigetsusha, 1915).
36 These included the rebuilding of the Grand Shrine of Ise (1899 and 1909), Yahiko Shrine (Niigata, 1916), Meiji Shrine (1920), the expansion of Atami Shrine (1922), various parts of Yasukuni Shrine including the Yūshūkan, and the expansion of the Grand Shrine of Izumo. Of these, Ise, Meiji, and Yasukuni shrines stand out as especially privileged sites as the nexus of sacral, imperial, and state power that State Shintō enabled. In addition, Itō was also responsible for the design and construction of Shintō shrines in the Japanese empire&rsquos colonial possessions, beginning with the Grand Shrine of Taiwan in 1901, but also Karafuto Shrine (1912), and the Grand Shrine of Chosen (1925).
37 Maruyama Shigeru, Nihon no kenchiku to shisō: Itō Chūta shoron (Tokyo: Dobun shoin, 1996), 121.
38 Itō, &ldquoSekai kenchiku ni okeru nihon no shaji,&rdquo316-317
39 Itō Chūta, &ldquoJinja kenchiku ni taisuru kōsatsu.&rdquo
40 Itō, &ldquoJinja kenchiku ni taisuru kōsatsu,&rdquo17.
41 Itō, &ldquoJinja kenchiku ni taisuru kōsatsu,&rdquo18-20.
42 These regulations start in the 1870s as the then Ministry of Doctrine (Kyobushō) issued regulations on the size the format of national and government shrines. See also Yamauchi Yasuaki, Jinja kenchiku (Tokyo: Jinja shinpōsha, 1972), 194-202 for some of these regulations.
43 Optional structures were also recommended. See Kodama Kuichi, Jinja gyōsei (Tokyo: Tokiwa shobō, 1934), 48.
44 Kodama, 54.
45 Torigoe, Ryūkyū shūkyōshi no kenkyū, 656. Also see note 37 above. George Kerr asks: &ldquoWhat better man to serve as a link between Okinawa and Japan than the legendary Minamoto Tametomo?&rdquo Kerr, Okinawa, 50.
46 Higashionna Kanjun, Ryūkyū no rekishi (Tokyo: Shibundō, 1957), Textbooks on Okinawan history today trace the beginnings of political history to the 13th century, and treat the period of Shunten&rsquos reign as myth. See for instance Okinawaken kyoiku iinkai, Gaisetsu okinawa no rekishi to bunka (Naha: Okinawaken kyoiku iinkai, 2000).
47 Shō Shōken was a pro-Japan, Ryūkyūan statesman who is credited with being the earliest proponent of the theory of common Ryūkyūan and Japanese ancestry (nichi-ryū dōso ron) who was writing from within a Ryūkyū Kingdom subdued by Satsuma.
48 Kikuchi Yūhō, Ryūkyū to Tametomo (Tokyo: Bunrokudō shoten, 1908) Bungakusha, ed., Shōgaku sakubun zensho (Tokyo: Bungakusha, 1883) Shimabukuro Genichiro, Okinawa rekishi: densetsu hoi (Mawashison okinawaken: Shimabukuro genichiro, 1932).
49 Kerr, Okinawa, 102.
50 Gregory Smits, Visions of Ryūkyū: Identity and Ideology in Early-Modern Thought and Politics (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999).
51 &ldquoShuri shi kinen shi&rdquo in Naha shishi, Vol. 2, No. 2, 374. Kaji Yorihito has also found newspaper reports on Okinawa Shrine&rsquos vibrant and busy shrine days. Kaji, 100-101.
52 Torigoe, 660
53 Okinawa Prefectural Library collection. All the figures that follow come from this material.
54 Ujiko refers to the group of people reside in an area around a shrine and who are registered with it. They are somewhat analogous to the notion of &ldquoparishioners&rdquo in terms of their relationship to the site of worship. Kokugakuin University&rsquos online Shinto glossary defines ujiko this way: &ldquoGenerally, a group from the land surrounding the areas dedicated to the belief in and worship of one shrine or, the constituents of that group.&rdquo
55 Sūkeisha also refers to a shrine&rsquos worshippers and is often used interchangeably with ujiko. However, strictly speaking, where ujiko refers to worshippers who live within the shrine&rsquos defined district, sūkeisha refers to worshippers from outside that area. Yomochi Shrine&rsquos numbers are those for &ldquoOkinawa prefecture as a whole&rdquo (Okinawa ken ka ichien). Yomochi Shrine was nevertheless a popular shrine and seems to have enjoyed support from the local population, in part because its resident deities were Ryūkyūan heroes, rather than deities from the Shinto pantheon. For more on Yomochi Shrine, see Kaji Yorihito, Okinawa no jinja (Naha: Okinawa bunko, 2000), 106-111. See also Kadena City&rsquos website on the shrine,
56 See for example Mitsuko Nitta, Dairen jinjashi: aru kaigai jinja no shakaishi (Tokyo: Ofu, 1997), Koji Suga, Nihon tochika no kaigai jinja: chosen jingu taiwan jinja to saijin (Tokyo: Kobundo, 2004), and Akihito Aoi, Shokuminchi jinja to teikoku nihon (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 2005). See also Minoru Tsushi&rsquos Shinraku jinja: yasukuni shisō wo kangaeru tameni (Tokyo: Shinchosha, 2003). For compulsory visitations, see Takeshi Komagome, &ldquoShokuminchi ni okeru jinja sanpai,&rdquo in Seikatsu no naka shokuminchi shugi (Kyoto: Jinbunshoin, 2004), 105-129, Takeshi Komagome, Shokuminchi teikoku nihon no bunka togo (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1996).
57 Hildi Kang, Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005), esp. 114. See also pages 111-116.
58 The efforts of the Okinawa Prefecture Committee for the Promotion of Culture (Okinawaken bunka shinkōkai) and the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education (Okinawaken kyōiku iinkai) to compile historical materials are exemplary. The latter&rsquos Okinawaken shiryō (Okinawa Prefecture Historical Materials) series is an important collection of primary source material from the prewar. This is reflected in the mission of the Okinawa Prefectural Archives. In remarks commemorating the opening of the archives on August 1, 1995, the then director Miyagi Etsujirō commented that &ldquobecause almost all [of Okinawa&rsquos] prewar records were lost in this past war, it was a situation where we had to put postwar documents at the center [of our efforts].&rdquo Okinawa Prefectural Archives, ARCHIVES, vol. 1 (1996), 3. Photographs seem to receive special attention: Ryūkyū shinpō sha, ed., Mukashi okinawa: shashinshu (Naha: Ryūkyū shinpôsha, 1978), Shuritsu hawaidaigaku horeisokan henshu iinkai, Bōkyō okinawa shashinshū (Tokyo: Honpō shoseki, 1981), Okinawa terebi hoso kabushiki gaisha, ed., Yomigaeru senzen no okinawa: shashinshu (Urasoe: Okinawa shuppan, 1995), Okinawa terebi hoso kabushiki gaisha, ed., Yomigaeru senzen no okinawa: shashinshū (Urasoe: Okinawa shuppan, 1995).
59 Shurijō fukugen kisei kai kaihō 1, 1982, 3.
60 Okinawa kaihatsu chō, Okinawa shinkō kaihatsu keikaku. dai ni ji (Naha: Okinawa kaihatsu chō, 1982).
61 Kiyoshi Fukushima, &ldquoShurijō fukugen sekkei ni tsuite no zakkan,&rdquo Okinawa bunka kenkyū 21 (1995), 40.
62 「1712年に再建され、1925年に国宝指定された正殿の復元を原則とする」, Fukushima, &ldquoShurijō fukugen sekkei ni tsuite no zakkan,&rdquo 46.
63 Shuri Castle was rebuilt three times before after fires destroyed it in 1453, 1660, and 1709.

Shuri Castle and the deep sorrow of losing one's history

The phone rang early Thursday morning. The caller was a relative who sounded like they were in shock, barely able to choke out the words.

"Shuri Castle is burning," they said.

This was how I learned of the blaze that left Shuri Castle in ashes. I was in Naha, where the castle is located, for research. After the call, I quickly turned on the television, I could not believe my eyes. Shuri Castle was engulfed in flames.

It didn't seem real. It was as if someone who I thought would be with me forever suddenly died. I couldn't even think of what to do.

Shuri Castle seemed like it has always been part of Okinawa. It dates back to the late 14th century. After the establishment of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which unified the Ryukyu Islands, a chain that lies off southwestern Japan, new buildings were added and the castle compound was expanded by kings.

Surrounded by winding stone walls, it's neither an imposing citadel nor a fortress. It's a castle to welcome people from faraway places who crossed the sea and for the people of Ryukyu who set out to sea. The 15th century was the kingdom's golden age but after that, it experienced one hardship after another.

Even in difficult times, Shuri Castle functioned as the center of administrative and political affairs. It also served as a base for diplomacy and trade, and as a place to promote the Ryukyu culture.

But after the Meiji Era began in Japan, the kingdom came under assault of what is known as Ryukyu Disposition in the 1870s. Backed by military force, the Meiji government dissolved the kingdom and demanded that it terminate a tributary relationship with Qing Dynasty. Ryukyu rejected the demand, but the government sent troops and police to crack down on protests. The last king was ordered to hand over Shuri Castle and relocate to Tokyo.

The kingdom was turned into Okinawa Prefecture, and its 500 years of history came to an end. The Meiji government confiscated Shuri Castle and later sold it to Shuri District, a local authority at that time, which is now the northeastern part of Naha City. The castle was used as a school, but the former royal palace became desolate over time.

Yoshitaro Kamakura, a renowned artist and Okinawa scholar, spent time at Shuri Castle in the early 1920s. A native of Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, he was fascinated by the Ryukyu culture through his interactions with local people. He spent 16 years, on and off the island, chronicling its culture and history through notes and photographs. His work played a crucial role in the designation of Shuri Castle as a national treasure in 1925. Major renovation works followed.

However, a ground battle in the final days of World War II devastated the island, and Shuri Castle was not spared. The University of the Ryukyus was built on the castle ruins after the war. Calls to restore the castle never ceased during the 27-year U.S. military occupation of Okinawa. The castle was not just a symbol of the kingdom's history and culture, but a historical record of how the people of Ryukyu and Okinawa lived.

And history is something Okinawans hold dear. It never fails to amaze me when I hear them vividly tell the lives of their ancestors. They make me realize that we won't be here without those who struggled to survive.

A project to restore Shuri Castle started after the national university relocated. The war caused a massive loss of historical materials. But project team members, the best and brightest from a wide range of fields, didn't waste time mourning the loss. They conducted thorough surveys and research, using clues they found and restored historical structures. The materials and field notes left by Kamakura also helped. It goes without saying that cooperation from the people of Okinawa gave the members moral support.

Twenty-seven years have passed since the restoration, and I was happy to see an increasing number of young people who grew up looking at the "red castle." But on Thursday tragedy struck. Witnessing Shuri Castle, which I visited countless times, succumb to flames was gut-wrenching. All I can do now is to embrace this deep sorrow.

The castle is not only for Okinawans. When you incorporate the history of Ryukyu into that of Japan, you will see that the kingdom was a gateway to Asian countries and built a rich culture. Shuri Castle was proof of that.

Kei Yonahara is a nonfiction writer and an Okinawan born in Tokyo. She has written many books mainly on the history and culture of Okinawa and Asia, including one about Shuri Castle.

Over-tourism Problems arise as tourism surge—tackling traffic congestion and parking space shortages

The World Heritage Sites throughout Okinawa saw a surge in tourism after they were inscribed on UNESCO’s list. Each municipality has made various efforts to meet the needs of its tourists. However, a conflict exists between preserving the local culture of revering the sites as sacred ground and preserving them as cultural property.

Gates were installed at the Seifa-Utaki to prevent visitors from entering the triangular rock formation known as the sangui located in Kudeken, Chinen, Nanjo City.

The status of Seifa-Utaki as a sacred ground has posed challenges for Nanjo City. Visitors to Seifa-Utaki reached 434,000 in 2013, causing traffic congestion for locals. Complaints were subsequently filed by residents as well as visitors whose primary purpose was to pray at Seifa-Utaki. In order to relieve traffic congestion, the city relocated the parking lot to the Nanjo City-Ganju Station. It also designated bi-annual closures (six days per year in total) to preserve the site’s historical and environmental characteristics. The Nanjo City Commerce and Tourism Department explained that it intends to safeguard the cultural property while promoting tourism without fixating too much on tourism statistics.

Hideki Yaga, secretary-general of the city’s tourism association, stressed, “We can add to Seifa-Utaki’s value as a ‘sacred place’ by protecting the site and its surrounding nature.”

■ Shuri Castle, Shikinaen, and Tamaudun

In the fiscal year 2018, about 2,806,000 visitors traveled to the national Shuri Castle park area, causing traffic congestion. One of the goals of rebuilding Shuri Castle is to design a community where tourists and residents can co-exist.
After the Shuri Castle fire, the number of visitors at Shikinaen and Tamaudun surged temporarily. In October 2019, the Shikinaen welcomed about 5,000 visitors, compared to 20,000 the following November, after the fire the increased traffic damaged the site’s cobblestones.
Visitors dropped this year due to the pandemic. Still, Naha City Curator Yu Suzuki is thinking ahead: “We need to figure out the maximum number of visitors that will maintain a tranquil atmosphere.”

Nakijin Castle Ruins in Imadomari, Nakijin.

At the Nakijin Castle remains, the English translation of the information board is being revised. Yasushi Tamaki, the head of the Nakijin Cultural Assets Department, is confident that “[the new translation] will make Okinawa’s unique spiritual culture more intelligible.” More than half of the translation is complete.

■ Nakagusuku Castle

Nakagusuku Village, where Nakagusuku Castle is located, faces challenges in multilingualization, such as training tour guides to assist visitors from abroad. Furthermore, since there are no permanent exhibitions currently installed at Nakagusuku Castle, there is no way to communicate the significance of the gusuku (castle). The premises also lack parking space to accommodate guests during large scale events.

Shuri Castle Walls - History

Daybreak on 29 May 1945 found the 1st Marine Division beginning its fifth consecutive week of frontal assault as part of the U.S. Tenth Army's grinding offensive against the Japanese defenses centered on Shuri Castle in southern Okinawa. Operation Iceberg, the campaign to seize Okinawa, was now two months old — and badly bogged down. The exhilarating, fast-paced opening of the campaign had been replaced by week after week of costly, exhausting, attrition warfare against the Shuri complex.

The 1st Marine Division, hemmed in between two other divisions with precious little maneuver room, had advanced barely a thousand yards in the past 18 days — an average of 55 yards each bloody day. Their sector featured one bristling, honeycombed ridge line after another — sequentially Kakazu, Dakeshi, and Wana (with its murderous, reverse slope canyon). Just beyond lay the long shoulder of Shuri Ridge, the nerve center of the Japanese Thirty-second Army and the outpost of dozens of the enemy's forward artillery observers who had made life so miserable for American assault forces all month long.

Two Marines, Davis P. Hargraves with Thompson submachine gun and Gabriel Chavarria with BAR, of 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, advance on Wana Ridge on 18 May 1945. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 123170

But on this rainy morning, this 29th of May, things seemed some how different, quieter. After days of bitter fighting, American forces had finally overrun both outposts of the Shuri Line: Conical Hill on the east, captured by the 96th Infantry Division, and the Sugar Loaf complex in the west, seized by the 6th Marine Division. Shuri no longer seemed invincible.

Company A of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines moved out warily, expecting the usual firestorm of Japanese artillery at any moment. There was none. The Marines reached the crest of Shuri Ridge with hardly a firefight. Astonished, the company commander looked west ward along the ridge several hundred yards to the ruins of Shuri Castle, the medieval fortress of the ancient Ryukyuan kings. Everyone in the Tenth Army expected the Japanese to defend Shuri to the death — but the place seemed lightly held. Spiteful small arms fire appeared to come from nothing more than a rear guard. Field radios buzzed with this astounding news. Shuri Castle itself lay beyond division and corps boundaries, but it was there for the taking. The assault Marines asked permission to seize the prize.

Major General Pedro del Valle, commanding the 1st Marine Division, did not hesitate. By all rights the castle belonged to the neighboring 77th Infantry Division and del Valle knew his counterpart, Army Major General Andrew D. Bruce, would be angry if the Marines snatched the long-sought trophy before his soldiers could arrive. But this was an unprecedented opportunity to grab the Tenth Army's main objective. Del Valle gave the go-ahead. With that, Company A, 1/5, swept west along the ridge against light opposition and took possession of the battered complex. Del Valle's staff had to do some fancy footwork to keep peace with their Army neighbors. Only then did they learn that the 77th Division had scheduled a major bombardment of the castle that morning. Frantic radio calls averted the near-tragedy just in time. Results of the Marines' preemptive action incensed General Bruce. Recalled del Valle: "I don't think a single Army division commander would talk to me after that."

Notwithstanding this inter-service aggravation, the Americans had achieved much this morning. For two months the Shuri Heights had provided the Japanese with superb fields of observed fire that covered the port city of Naha and the entire five-mile neck of southern Okinawa. Even now, as the Marines of A/1/5 deployed into a hasty defensive line within the Castle's rubble, they were oblivious to the fact that a Japanese rear guard still occupied portions of the mammoth underground headquarters complex directly under their muddy boondockers. They would be astounded to learn that the subterranean headquarters of the Thirty-second Army measured 1,287 feet long and as much as 160 feet deep — all of it dug by pick and shovel.

The Japanese had in fact stolen a march on the approaching Tenth Army. Most of their forces had retreated southwards during the incessant rains, and would soon occupy the third (and final) ring of their prepared, underground defenses, a series of fortified escarpments in the Kiyamu Peninsula.

A mass of rubble is all that is left of Shuri Castle, its walls, the moat below them, and Shuri City beyond, after the 5th Marines had captured the area. The battered trees are part of a forest growth which in more peaceful times had surrounded it. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 124370

Seizing Shuri Castle represented an undeniable milestone in the Okinawa campaign, but it was a hollow victory. Just as the flag-raising on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi signified only the end of the beginning of that prolonged battle, the capture of Shuri did not end the fighting. The brutal slugfest on Okinawa still had another 24 days to run. And still the Plum Rains fell, and the horrors, and the dying, continued.

Shuri Castle Walls - History

By MATTHEW M. BURKE | Stars and Stripes | Published: August 15, 2019

The thing that stands out about Okinawa’s idyllic Maeda Escarpment today is its peacefulness.

Rolling green fields, trees, unique rock formations and stunning vistas greet dog walkers, lovers, foreign tourists and local schoolchildren alike.

As if these stunning natural features were not enough, the escarpment is a wonder for a totally unrelated reason. It is known by another name that commands reverence: Hacksaw Ridge.

Hacksaw Ridge — as the name implies — was the site of some of the bloodiest fighting during the Battle of Okinawa 74 years ago. It was immortalized in the 2016 film of the same name directed by Mel Gibson. The film depicts the heroics of then 26-year-old Army Pfc. Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist from Lynchburg, Va., who received the Medal of Honor for his actions under fire there.

Like many former World War II battle sites, time and nature have swallowed the carnage and muted the cries of the wounded and dying. Yet just below the surface, the ghosts remain.

American forces began landing at Chatan and Yomitan on April 1, 1945, according to battle histories on the Urasoe and Naha city websites. They began moving south toward the Japanese military headquarters at Shuri Castle.

They had to fight their way through Kakazu Ridge and Hacksaw Ridge as the island’s Japanese defenders had taken the high ground to try and repel the invading Americans.

Hacksaw Ridge is a hilled area above the ruins of Urasoe Castle. Totally destroyed during the fighting, the distinct castle walls and tombs of Ryukyu kings Eiso and Shonei have since been rebuilt.

The ridge was a logistical nightmare for both sides. It was inaccessible to American tanks and had to be climbed and taken by soldiers from the 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division.

For the Japanese, the ridge’s steep cliffs and narrow approaches didn’t allow for machine gun nests to fire down upon the Americans as they approached, the Urasoe city website said. The Japanese had to repel them once they summited the plateau, which the Japanese transformed into a kill zone.

Doss arrived as a medic attached to Company B, 1st Battalion, according to the book “Okinawa: The Last Battle,” by Roy Appleman, James Burns, Russell Gugeler and John Stevens. As a pacifist, Doss had been threatened and harassed by his comrades for refusing to carry a weapon in combat or kill an enemy soldier.

By the time Doss got to Okinawa, he had already served with distinction on Guam and in the Philippines, according to his Washington Post obituary from 2006.

Doss’ Company B approached Hacksaw Ridge in late April 1945, the book said. They aimed for Needle Rock, a nearly 43-foot rock at the east end of the hill.

Company A mounted four 50-foot ladders, which were lashed together, and cargo nets on the ridge’s eastern end on May 1, the book said. However, every man who climbed to the top was killed. Company B attempted the climb with cargo nets farther to the west.

They were ultimately successful in getting two platoons on top of the 400-foot plateau, the book said.

Thousands of Japanese soldiers awaited them in caves and fighting holes, according to a U.S. Army history of Doss.

As Doss and his fellow soldiers made it to the summit, they were pummeled with artillery, mortar and machine gun fire, according to Doss’ Medal of Honor citation. Seventy-five casualties fell and the rest of the men were forced to withdraw.

He “refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them one by one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands,” the citation reads.

Many of the same men Doss had saved, were the very same ones who had treated him so poorly earlier in his military career, the Army history said.

On May 2, Doss exposed himself to rifle and mortar fire to rescue a casualty some 200 yards forward of the American line, the citation reads. On May 4, he advanced through a “shower” of grenades to rescue four wounded men who had been cut down while assaulting a cave. Doss treated their wounds within eight yards of the cave’s mouth and made four separate trips to evacuate them.

A day later, he exposed himself to shelling and small arms fire while he administered plasma to yet another casualty, his citation reads. Later that same day, Doss crawled to another severely wounded man who lay 25 feet from an enemy position. He treated the man and carried him 100 yards to safety.

The battle for Hacksaw Ridge ended May 6, the Urasoe city website said. However, that was not the end of Doss’ heroics.

On the night of May 21, he was seriously wounded in his legs by a grenade while treating casualties, again, alone in an exposed position near Shuri, the citation reads. He treated himself and waited five hours for help. As he was being evacuated, they were caught in an enemy tank attack.

“Private First Class Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man,” the citation said. “Awaiting the litter bearers’ return, he was again struck, this time suffering a compound fracture of one arm.”

Doss famously bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm, which had been struck by a sniper’s bullet, and crawled 300 yards to an aid station, the citation said. He became the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor on Oct. 12, 1945, from President Harry Truman, the Army biography said.

Nearly 500 of the 800 men in Doss’ battalion became casualties atop Hacksaw Ridge, an Army history of the battle said. Upwards of 3,000 Japanese were estimated killed.

The Maeda Escarpment Peace Monument — erected to honor the war dead from Japan’s 2nd Battalion, 32nd Regiment — lies today next to a gravel parking lot that was carved out of the cliffside after the war. The monument and the gravel lot in its immediate vicinity marks the approximate spot of Doss’ litter-lowering heroics, local tour guides told Stars and Stripes.

There is a set of stairs cut in the rock down to the monument and parking lot.

The scars from the battle atop Hacksaw Ridge are all but gone. Markers in a lovely meadow are all that remain.

Urasoe Castle and the Urasoe Youdore Museum offer a glimpse into Okinawa’s past. Sadly, this past includes the tragedy that was the war. The island’s anti-war identity makes Doss the perfect hero.

Shoji Kudaka of Stripes Okinawa contributed to this report.

The Maeda Escarpment Peace Monument - erected to honor the war dead from Japan's 2nd Battalion, 32nd Regiment - is believed to be near the point where Desmond Doss lowered 75 wounded soldiers to safety.

Watch the video: . - Castle Walls ft. Christina Aguilera Music Video (January 2022).