Ruins of Shuri Castle, Okinawa

Ruins of Shuri Castle, Okinawa


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Ruins of Shuri Castle, Okinawa

Here we see two US Marines picking their way through the ruins of Shuri Castle on Okinawa. It was destroyed during the fighting on Okinawa, but rebuilt during the 1990s.


Investigators inspect ruined Okinawan castle for fire cause

TOKYO -- Fire and police investigators inspected the burned-out ruins of Shuri Castle on Okinawa on Friday to determine the cause of the fire that nearly destroyed the symbol of the Japanese island's cultural heritage and history of struggle.

The fire Thursday burned down the three main halls and four nearby structures at the castle in Okinawa's prefectural capital of Naha. It took firefighters 11 hours to extinguish the blaze.

More than 130 investigators inspected the site Friday, according to local officials. They believe the blaze started inside the Seiden, the castle's centerpiece, around 2:30 a.m. when no one was around.

The late hour and the castle's design, with a spacious wooden main hall connected to other main buildings by hallways, might have allowed the fire to spread quickly.

Shuri Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site which dates from the 1429-1879 Ryukyu Kingdom era. The castle, burned down during World War II, was largely restored in 1992 for the 20th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japan that ended the island's 27-year U.S. occupation. Historians and other experts had continued the restoration efforts until recently.

Many Okinawans expressed deep sorrow over the damage to the castle, which is a symbol of their cultural roots as well as the history of their struggle since the 1879 annexation by Japan.

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said his heart was broken, but expressed his determination to reconstruct the castle. Tamaki, who cut short a trip to South Korea and returned to Naha on Thursday, was in Tokyo on Friday meeting central government officials to seek their support.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed his sympathy to the Okinawans, adding that the government is willing to do everything it can to help the castle's reconstruction.

Investigators were focusing on the ruins of the Seiden hall. Video on NHK public television, taken from a helicopter, showed dozens of officials in uniforms and white helmets searching through charred debris, putting pieces into buckets for further examination.

The fate of hundreds of historic Ryukyu arts and crafts also was uncertain. Fire officials said they believe treasures displayed at the castle were mostly replicas of originals kept in safe storage elsewhere, but were trying to confirm their whereabouts.

Okinawa Churashima Foundation, which oversaw the castle, said it could not immediately confirm the status of a collection of historical artifacts kept at the castle. It said more than 1,500 items including calligraphy scrolls, lacquerware and paintings were stored there, and about 400 of them may have been in buildings that burned down, Kyodo News reported. It said most of the items were stored in heat-resistant warehouses at the castle and may have been saved, but their condition could not be examined immediately due to high temperatures.

The castle had hydrants, alarms, portable extinguishers and water outside the buildings. But there were no sprinklers installed inside the buildings, Naha fire department official Ryo Kotani said.

The fire was detected when a security guard heard an alarm, Kotani said. The blaze had engulfed the hall and spread to nearby structures when firefighters arrived about 20 minutes later.

This story corrects spelling of the name of the organization overseeing the castle to Churashima instead of Churashma.


On 31 October, 2019, a massive fire tore through the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shuri Castle in Okinawa, sparking a global reaction and comparisons with the devastating fire at Notre Dame, another World Heritage site. The New York Times and other outlets reported that Japanese officials had expressed alarm and concern about the vulnerability of domestic sites like Shuri Castle after the fire in Paris in April 2019. Over the past several years, threats to World Heritage sites from conflict, development, and environmental changes have received widespread coverage and immediate responses from around the world. These responses have also been controversial, as in the case of Notre Dame, with the global media attention and celebrity support for fundraising contrasted with a perceived lack of coverage for humanitarian disasters occurring elsewhere. Another controversy has concerned the site itself, as commentators have pointed out that much of the appearance of Notre Dame was the result of modern additions from the architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc in the nineteenth century, rather than being “medieval” heritage.

Image: The Main Hall of Shuri Castle before the fire. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In Japan, the destruction of Shuri Castle throws up similar issues, but also sparks much more complex debates. Fortunately, like Notre Dame, the fire at Shuri Castle did not result in any casualties. Like Notre Dame, the immediate response was that the site would be rebuilt. Furthermore, although international headlines focused on the “500-year old world heritage site” and “600-year-old Shuri Castle complex,” they also mentioned that the castle had essentially been rebuilt in 1992 before being designated a World Heritage site in 2000. The focus of coverage has generally been on the role of Shuri Castle as the symbol of the former Ryukyu Kingdom, which conquered and ruled various parts of the Ryukyu Islands, from about the fifteenth century. Shuri Castle is an important site for many Okinawans, and more than ten million US dollars towards reconstruction were raised in the first month after the fire.

After Shuri took over the surrounding islands, it was in turn conquered by Japanese forces, who effectively controlled the Ryukyu Kingdom from the early seventeenth century and formally incorporated it as Okinawa Prefecture in 1879. Shuri therefore had a difficult and ambivalent relationship with Japan as well as with various islands that made up the kingdom. The Okinawan identity now symbolized by Shuri arguably formed from the late nineteenth century as a response to Japan’s efforts to integrate the islands. Okinawans were often victims of discrimination, a trend that culminated in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa. Hundreds of thousands of Okinawans were killed in the conflict, including at the hands of Japanese troops enforcing a policy of “compulsory mass suicide”.

US Marines raising the flag atop the ruins of Shuri Castle after the Battle of Okinawa. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With Okinawa in ruins, Japan surrendered before the Allies advanced to the Japanese main islands. After the war, Okinawa remained occupied by the United States until 1971, leading to further resentment among Okinawans that they were being sacrificed by Tokyo. Even after the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, the United States has kept an outsize military presence in the islands. Although Okinawa is less than 1 percent of Japan’s territory it hosts about half of the 54,000 US troops stationed in Japan. This has resulted in great tensions between Okinawans and the US military, as soldiers and civilians live in close proximity. Accidents, crime, and sexual assaults by Americans against Okinawans are prominent issues, and contribute to a widespread sense of victimization in Okinawa as they shoulder an excessive burden from the US military presence relative to the rest of Japan.

In this complex situation, Shuri Castle is a highly significant site. For many Okinawans, the reconstruction of the castle and its recognition by UNESCO were great sources of pride in their heritage. At the same time, this process erased much of the problematic history of Shuri Castle and Okinawa as a whole. In the late nineteenth century, like dozens of other castles throughout Japan, Shuri Castle became a military site. The castle was later turned into a shrine in the 1920s as part of an effort to preserve the decaying buildings. Just like castles on the mainland, however, the Imperial Japanese Army repossessed Shuri Castle, turning it into their headquarters bunker. As a result, Shuri became one of the main sites of the Battle of Okinawa, and was almost completely destroyed in May 1945.

Like other castles, Shuri Castle was demilitarized after the war, and the transition to a new age was symbolized by the establishment of Ryukyu University on the castle ruins in 1950. Many other castles in Japan were similarly transformed from military sites to sites of culture and education, hosting universities, museums, parks, and sports facilities.

As elsewhere in Japan, the desire to erase of the modern military past and recover pre-imperial heritage was strong in Okinawa, and in the 1980s it was agreed to remove Ryukyu University to another site and to rebuild the original Shuri Castle using traditional techniques and materials. The focus at Shuri Castle was placed squarely on its older Ryukyuan heritage before the turmoil of the modern period. The castle’s message was epitomized by the Shureimon – the gate of courtesy that features on the 2000-Yen note. Ryukyuan heritage was presented as peaceful, glossing over the long history of Shuri’s dominance over other Okinawan islands (Shuri, after all, was a heavily fortified castle). The battle scars of the Second World War were also largely erased along with the university.

Ryukyu University in Shuri Castle in the 1960s. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Shuri reconstruction was completed in 1992, the same year that Japan’s most famous castle, Himeji Castle, became one of the nation’s first two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Himeji Castle had also served as a major military base until 1945, and this legacy has also been largely erased as the public history of the site focuses almost entirely on the pre-modern period. Another former military base, Hiroshima Castle, has similarly removed most traces of the modern military, and its focus is a 1950s concrete reconstruction of the castle keep that was destroyed by the atomic bomb.

Himeji Castle in early 2018. The large open field below the keep contained Imperial Japanese Army barracks through the end of the Second World War. Photo by the author.

The issues of authenticity discussed in the case of Notre Dame are also important in the case of Japanese castles, but they are compounded by the fraught modern history of these very prominent sites. The great keep of Nagoya Castle, the largest in Japan before being destroyed by American bombs, was rebuilt out of concrete in the late 1950s, and that structure is now being demolished to make way for an “authentic” wooden reconstruction to be completed by 2022 at a cost of more than 500 million US Dollars. At the same time, its modern history has been largely erased, as Nagoya Castle also served as a major garrison until 1945. The same is true of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, which was the central site of the imperial succession ceremonies that marked the beginning of the Reiwa period in May 2019. The legacy of the site as the Imperial Castle and garrison of the Imperial Guard through the Second World War is largely obscured. Osaka Castle, another former military base, refurbished its popular concrete keep in the late 1990s, and Prime Minister Abe Shinzo was roundly criticized for mocking the presence of elevators in the castle during the G20 Summit in June 2019. This controversy reflects tensions between authenticity and accessibility that are also erupting in Nagoya.

The concrete Nagoya Castle keep in January 2018, shortly before being closed for reconstruction from wood. Photo by the author.

Image: The concrete Nagoya Castle keep in January 2018, shortly before being closed for reconstruction from wood. Photo by the author.

The important symbolic role of castles can be seen in Kumamoto, another former garrison site with a 1950s concrete keep and little evidence of its military past. When the region was struck by major earthquakes in 2016, much of the public focus was on the castle, with drone footage of the damaged keep broadcast around the world. At least 50 people were killed and thousands injured, but the castle became the most recognizable image of the disaster and its reconstruction symbolizes Kumamoto’s efforts to recover. The recent burning of Shuri Castle sparked reminders of Notre Dame abroad, but in Japan it also brought memories of images of the wartime destruction of Shuri Castle, Nagoya Castle, and other important heritage sites.

The cycles of destruction and reconstruction of Shuri Castle should be seen in the context of broader developments concerning castles in modern Japan, which we discuss in our recent book, Japan’s Castles: Citadels of Modernity in War and Peace. As attention turns towards the reconstruction of the structures that were lost in October 2019, old and new controversies over the site may well come to the fore. Concerns over authenticity may be sidelined by larger debates concerning the humanitarian, political, and symbolic issues surrounding Shuri Castle’s turbulent and tragic modern history.

Japan’s Castles: Citadels of Modernity in War and Peace by Oleg Benesch and Ran Zwigenberg


Contents

Allied Edit

In all, the US Army had over 103,000 soldiers (of these, 38,000+ were non-divisional artillery, combat support and HQ troops, with another 9,000 service troops), [22] : 39 over 88,000 Marines and 18,000 Navy personnel (mostly Seabees and medical personnel). [22] : 40 At the start of the Battle of Okinawa, the US 10th Army had 182,821 personnel under its command. [22] : 40 It was planned that Lieutenant general Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. would report to Vice admiral Richmond K. Turner until the amphibious phase was completed, after which he would report directly to Admiral Raymond A. Spruance. Total aircraft in the American Navy, Marine and Army Air Force exceeded 3000 over the course of the battle, including fighters, attack aircraft, scout planes, bombers and dive-bombers. The invasion was supported by a fleet consisting of 18 battleships, 27 cruisers, 177 destroyers/destroyer escorts, 39 aircraft carriers (11 fleet carriers, 6 light carriers and 22 escort carriers) and various support and troop transport ships. [23]

The British naval contingent accompanied 251 British naval aircraft, and included a British Commonwealth fleet with Australian, New Zealand and Canadian ships and personnel. [24]

Japanese Edit

The Japanese land campaign (mainly defensive) was conducted by the 67,000-strong (77,000 according to some sources) regular 32nd Army and some 9,000 Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) troops at Oroku Naval Base (only a few hundred of whom had been trained and equipped for ground combat), supported by 39,000 drafted local Ryukyuan people (including 24,000 hastily drafted rear militia called Boeitai and 15,000 non-uniformed laborers). The Japanese had used kamikaze tactics since the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but for the first time, they became a major part of the defense. Between the American landing on 1 April and 25 May, seven major kamikaze attacks were attempted, involving more than 1,500 planes.

The 32nd Army initially consisted of the 9th, 24th and 62nd Divisions and the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade. The 9th Division was moved to Taiwan before the invasion, resulting in shuffling of Japanese defensive plans. Primary resistance was to be led in the south by Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, his chief of staff, Lieutenant General Isamu Chō and his chief of operations, Colonel Hiromichi Yahara. Yahara advocated a defensive strategy, whilst Chō advocated an offensive one.

In the north, Colonel Takehido Udo was in command. The IJN troops were led by Rear Admiral Minoru Ōta. They expected the Americans to land 6–10 divisions against the Japanese garrison of two and a half divisions. The staff calculated that superior quality and numbers of weapons gave each US division five or six times the firepower of a Japanese division. To this, would be added the Americans' abundant naval and air firepower.

Japanese soldiers arriving on Okinawa

Japanese high school girls wave farewell to a kamikaze pilot departing to Okinawa

A US military diagram of typical Japanese hill defensive tunnels and installations

A Japanese Type 89 150mm gun hidden inside a cave defensive system

A map of Okinawa's airfields, 1945

Military use of children Edit

On Okinawa, middle school boys were organized into front-line-service Tekketsu Kinnōtai, while Himeyuri students were organized into a nursing unit. [21]

The Imperial Japanese Army mobilized 1,780 middle school boys aged 14–17 years into front-line service. They were named Tekketsu Kinnōtai (ja:鉄血勤皇隊, "Iron and Blood Imperial Corps"). This mobilization was conducted by an ordinance of the Ministry of the Army, not by law. The ordinances mobilized the students as volunteer soldiers for form's sake in reality, the military authorities ordered schools to force almost all students to "volunteer" as soldiers sometimes they counterfeited the necessary documents. About half of the Tekketsu Kinnōtai were killed, including in suicide bomb attacks against tanks, and in guerrilla operations.

Among the 21 male and female secondary schools that made up these student corps, 2,000 students would die on the battlefield. Even with the female students acting mainly as nurses to Japanese soldiers they would still be exposed to the harsh conditions of war. [25]

Vice Admiral C.R. Brown, US Navy [26] : 711

The United States Navy's Task Force 58, deployed to the east of Okinawa with a picket group of from 6 to 8 destroyers, kept 13 carriers (7 CVs and 6 CVLs) on duty from 23 March to 27 April and a smaller number thereafter. Until 27 April, a minimum of 14 and up to 18 escort carriers (CVEs) were in the area at all times. Until 20 April, British Task Force 57, with 4 large and 6 escort carriers, remained off the Sakishima Islands to protect the southern flank. [12] : 97

The protracted length of the campaign under stressful conditions forced Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to take the unprecedented step of relieving the principal naval commanders to rest and recuperate. Following the practice of changing the fleet designation with the change of commanders, US naval forces began the campaign as the US 5th Fleet under Admiral Raymond Spruance, but ended it as the 3rd Fleet under Admiral William Halsey.

Japanese air opposition had been relatively light during the first few days after the landings. However, on 6 April, the expected air reaction began with an attack by 400 planes from Kyushu. Periodic heavy air attacks continued through April. During the period 26 March – 30 April, twenty American ships were sunk and 157 damaged by enemy action. For their part, by 30 April, the Japanese had lost more than 1,100 planes to Allied naval forces alone. [12] : 102

Between 6 April and 22 June, the Japanese flew 1,465 kamikaze aircraft in large-scale attacks from Kyushu, 185 individual kamikaze sorties from Kyushu, and 250 individual kamikaze sorties from Formosa. While US intelligence estimated there were 89 planes on Formosa, the Japanese actually had about 700, dismantled or well camouflaged and dispersed into scattered villages and towns the US Fifth Air Force disputed Navy claims of kamikaze coming from Formosa. [27] [ clarification needed ]

The ships lost were smaller vessels, particularly the destroyers of the radar pickets, as well as destroyer escorts and landing ships. While no major allied warships were lost, several fleet carriers were severely damaged. Land-based Shin'yō-class suicide motorboats were also used in the Japanese suicide attacks, although Ushijima had disbanded the majority of the suicide boat battalions before the battle due to expected low effectiveness against a superior enemy. The boat crews were re-formed into three additional infantry battalions. [28]

The super battleship Yamato explodes after persistent attacks from US aircraft.

American aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill burns after being hit by two kamikaze planes within 30 seconds.

Operation Ten-Go Edit

Operation Ten-Go (Ten-gō sakusen) was the attempted attack by a strike force of 10 Japanese surface vessels, led by Yamato and commanded by Admiral Seiichi Itō. This small task force had been ordered to fight through enemy naval forces, then beach Yamato and fight from shore, using her guns as coastal artillery and her crew as naval infantry. The Ten-Go force was spotted by submarines shortly after it left the Japanese home waters, and was intercepted by US carrier aircraft.

Under attack from more than 300 aircraft over a two-hour span, the world's largest battleship sank on 7 April 1945, after a one-sided battle, long before she could reach Okinawa. (US torpedo bombers were instructed to aim for only one side to prevent effective counter flooding by the battleship's crew, and to aim for the bow or the stern, where armor was believed to be the thinnest.) Of Yamato ' s screening force, the light cruiser Yahagi and 4 of the 8 destroyers were also sunk. The Imperial Japanese Navy lost some 3,700 sailors, including Admiral Itō, at the cost of 10 US aircraft and 12 airmen.

British Pacific Fleet Edit

The British Pacific Fleet, taking part as Task Force 57, was assigned the task of neutralizing the Japanese airfields in the Sakishima Islands, which it did successfully from 26 March to 10 April.

On 10 April, its attention was shifted to airfields in northern Formosa. The force withdrew to San Pedro Bay on 23 April.

On 1 May, the British Pacific Fleet returned to action, subduing the airfields as before, this time with naval bombardment as well as aircraft. Several kamikaze attacks caused significant damage, but as the Royal Navy carriers had armoured flight decks, they experienced only a brief interruption to their force's operations. [29] [30]

Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Avengers, Seafires and Fireflies on HMS Implacable warm up their engines before taking off.

HMS Formidable on fire after a kamikaze attack on May 4. The ship was out of action for fifty minutes.

The land battle took place over about 81 days beginning on 1 April 1945. The first Americans ashore were soldiers of the 77th Infantry Division, who landed in the Kerama Islands, 15 mi (24 km) west of Okinawa on 26 March. Subsidiary landings followed, and the Kerama group was secured over the next five days. In these preliminary operations, the 77th Infantry Division suffered 27 dead and 81 wounded, while the Japanese dead and captured numbered over 650. The operation provided a protected anchorage for the fleet and eliminated the threat from suicide boats. [12] : 50–60

On 31 March, Marines of the Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion landed without opposition on Keise Shima, four islets just 8 mi (13 km) west of the Okinawan capital of Naha. A group of 155 mm (6.1 in) "Long Tom" artillery pieces went ashore on the islets to cover operations on Okinawa. [12] : 57

Northern Okinawa Edit

The main landing was made by the XXIV Corps and the III Amphibious Corps on the Hagushi beaches on the western coast of Okinawa on L-Day, 1 April. The 2nd Marine Division conducted a demonstration off the Minatoga beaches on the southeastern coast to deceive the Japanese about American intentions and delay movement of reserves from there. [12] : 68–74

The 10th Army swept across the south-central part of the island with relative ease, capturing the Kadena and the Yomitan airbases within hours of the landing. [15] : 67–9 [12] : 74–5 In light of the weak opposition, General Buckner decided to proceed immediately with Phase II of his plan, the seizure of northern Okinawa. The 6th Marine Division headed up the Ishikawa Isthmus and by 7 April, had sealed off the Motobu Peninsula. [12] : 138–41

Six days later on 13 April, the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marine Regiment, reached Hedo Point (Hedo-misaki) at the northernmost tip of the island. By this point, the bulk of the Japanese forces in the north (codenamed Udo Force) were cornered on the Motobu Peninsula. Here, the terrain was mountainous and wooded, with the Japanese defenses concentrated on Yae-Dake, a twisted mass of rocky ridges and ravines on the center of the peninsula. There was heavy fighting before the Marines finally cleared Yae-Dake on 18 April. [12] : 141–8 However, this was not the end of ground combat in northern Okinawa. On 24 May, the Japanese mounted Operation Gi-gou: a company of Giretsu Kuteitai commandos were airlifted in a suicide attack on Yomitan. They destroyed 70,000 US gallons (260,000 l) of fuel and nine planes before being killed by the defenders, who lost two men.

Meanwhile, the 77th Infantry Division assaulted Ie Island (Ie Shima), a small island off the western end of the peninsula, on 16 April. In addition to conventional hazards, the 77th Infantry Division encountered kamikaze attacks and even local women armed with spears. There was heavy fighting before the area was declared secured on 21 April, and became another airbase for operations against Japan. [12] : 149–83

Southern Okinawa Edit

While the 6th Marine Division cleared northern Okinawa, the US Army 96th and 7th Infantry Divisions wheeled south across the narrow waist of Okinawa. The 96th Infantry Division began to encounter fierce resistance in west-central Okinawa from Japanese troops holding fortified positions east of Highway No. 1 and about 5 mi (8 km) northwest of Shuri, from what came to be known as Cactus Ridge. [12] : 104–5 The 7th Infantry Division encountered similarly fierce Japanese opposition from a rocky pinnacle located about 1,000 yd (910 m) southwest of Arakachi (later dubbed "The Pinnacle"). By the night of 8 April, American troops had cleared these and several other strongly fortified positions. They suffered over 1,500 battle casualties in the process while killing or capturing about 4,500 Japanese. Yet the battle had only begun, for it was now realized that "these were merely outposts," guarding the Shuri Line. [12] : 105–8

As the American assault against Kakazu Ridge stalled, Lieutenant General Ushijima – influenced by General Chō — decided to take the offensive. On the evening of 12 April, the 32nd Army attacked American positions across the entire front. The Japanese attack was heavy, sustained, and well organized. After fierce close combat, the attackers retreated, only to repeat their offensive the following night. A final assault on 14 April was again repulsed. The effort led the 32nd Army's staff to conclude that the Americans were vulnerable to night infiltration tactics, but that their superior firepower made any offensive Japanese troop concentrations extremely dangerous, and they reverted to their defensive strategy. [12] : 130–7

The 27th Infantry Division, which had landed on 9 April, took over on the right, along the west coast of Okinawa. General John R. Hodge now had three divisions in the line, with the 96th in the middle and the 7th to the east, with each division holding a front of only about 1.5 mi (2.4 km). Hodge launched a new offensive on 19 April with a barrage of 324 guns, the largest ever in the Pacific Ocean Theater. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers joined the bombardment, which was followed by 650 Navy and Marine planes attacking the Japanese positions with napalm, rockets, bombs, and machine guns. The Japanese defenses were sited on reverse slopes, where the defenders waited out the artillery barrage and aerial attack in relative safety, emerging from the caves to rain mortar rounds and grenades upon the Americans advancing up the forward slope. [12] : 184–94

A tank assault to achieve breakthrough by outflanking Kakazu Ridge failed to link up with its infantry support attempting to cross the ridge and therefore failed with the loss of 22 tanks. Although flame tanks cleared many cave defenses, there was no breakthrough, and the XXIV Corps suffered 720 casualties. The losses might have been greater except for the fact that the Japanese had practically all of their infantry reserves tied up farther south, held there by another feint off the Minatoga beaches by the 2nd Marine Division that coincided with the attack. [12] : 196–207

At the end of April, after Army forces had pushed through the Machinato defensive line, [31] the 1st Marine Division relieved the 27th Infantry Division and the 77th Infantry Division relieved the 96th. When the 6th Marine Division arrived, the III Amphibious Corps took over the right flank and the 10th Army assumed control of the battle. [12] : 265

On 4 May, the 32nd Army launched another counteroffensive. This time, Ushijima attempted to make amphibious assaults on the coasts behind American lines. To support his offensive, the Japanese artillery moved into the open. By doing so, they were able to fire 13,000 rounds in support, but effective American counter-battery fire destroyed dozens of Japanese artillery pieces. The attack failed. [12] : 283–302

By the end of May, monsoon rains which had turned contested hills and roads into a morass exacerbated both the tactical and medical situations. The ground advance began to resemble a World War I battlefield, as troops became mired in mud, and flooded roads greatly inhibited evacuation of wounded to the rear. Troops lived on a field sodden by rain, part garbage dump and part graveyard. Unburied Japanese and American bodies decayed, sank in the mud and became part of a noxious stew. Anyone sliding down the greasy slopes could easily find their pockets full of maggots at the end of the journey. [32] [12] : 364–70

From 24 to 27 May the 6th Marine Division cautiously occupied the ruins of Naha, the largest city on the island, finding it largely deserted. [12] : 372–7

On 26 May aerial observers saw large troop movements just below Shuri. On 28 May Marine patrols found recently abandoned positions west of Shuri. By 30 May the consensus among Army and Marine intelligence was that the majority of Japanese forces had withdrawn from the Shuri Line. [12] : 391–2 On 29 May the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines occupied high ground 700 yards (640 m) east of Shuri Castle and reported that the Castle appeared undefended. At 10:15 Company A, 1/5 Marines occupied the Castle [12] : 395–6

Shuri Castle had been shelled by the battleship USS Mississippi for three days before this advance. [33] Due to this, the 32nd Army withdrew to the south and thus the Marines had an easy task of securing Shuri Castle. [33] [34] The castle, however, was outside the 1st Marine Division's assigned zone and only frantic efforts by the commander and staff of the 77th Infantry Division prevented an American airstrike and artillery bombardment which would have resulted in many casualties due to friendly fire. [12] : 396

The Japanese retreat, although harassed by artillery fire, was conducted with great skill at night and aided by the monsoon storms. The 32nd Army was able to move nearly 30,000 personnel into its last defense line on the Kiyan Peninsula, which ultimately led to the greatest slaughter on Okinawa in the latter stages of the battle, including the deaths of thousands of civilians. In addition, there were 9,000 IJN troops supported by 1,100 militia, with approximately 4,000 holed up at the underground headquarters on the hillside overlooking the Okinawa Naval Base in the Oroku Peninsula, east of the airfield. [12] : 392–4

On 4 June, elements of the 6th Marine Division launched an amphibious assault on the peninsula. The 4,000 Japanese sailors, including Admiral Ōta, all committed suicide within the hand-built tunnels of the underground naval headquarters on 13 June. [12] : 427–34

By 17 June, the remnants of Ushijima's shattered 32nd Army were pushed into a small pocket in the far south of the island to the southeast of Itoman. [12] : 455–61

On 18 June, General Buckner was killed by Japanese artillery fire while monitoring the progress of his troops from a forward observation post. Buckner was replaced by Major general Roy Geiger. Upon assuming command, Geiger became the only US Marine to command a numbered army of the US Army in combat he was relieved five days later by General Joseph Stilwell. On 19 June, General Claudius Miller Easley, the commander of the 96th Infantry Division, was killed by Japanese machine-gun fire, also while checking on the progress of his troops at the front. [12] : 461

The last remnants of Japanese resistance ended on 21 June, although some Japanese continued hiding, including the future governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Masahide Ōta. [35] Ushijima and Chō committed suicide by seppuku in their command headquarters on Hill 89 in the closing hours of the battle. [12] : 468–71 Colonel Yahara had asked Ushijima for permission to commit suicide, but the general refused his request, saying: "If you die there will be no one left who knows the truth about the battle of Okinawa. Bear the temporary shame but endure it. This is an order from your army Commander." [26] : 723 Yahara was the most senior officer to have survived the battle on the island, and he later authored a book titled The Battle for Okinawa. On 22 June Tenth Army held a flag-arising ceremony to mark the end of organized resistance on Okinawa. On 23 June a mopping-up operation commenced, which concluded on 30 June. [12] : 471–3

On 15 August 1945, Admiral Matome Ugaki was killed while part of a kamikaze raid on Iheyajima island. The official surrender ceremony was held on 7 September, near the Kadena airfield.

Okinawa was the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. [36] [37] The most complete tally of deaths during the battle is at the Cornerstone of Peace monument at the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, which identifies the names of each individual who died at Okinawa in World War II. As of 2010, the monument lists 240,931 names, including 149,193 Okinawan civilians, 77,166 Imperial Japanese soldiers, 14,009 American soldiers, and smaller numbers of people from South Korea (365), the United Kingdom (82), North Korea (82) and Taiwan (34). [6]

The numbers correspond to recorded deaths during the Battle of Okinawa from the time of the American landings in the Kerama Islands on 26 March 1945, to the signing of the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945, in addition to all Okinawan casualties in the Pacific War in the 15 years from the Manchurian Incident, along with those who died in Okinawa from war-related events in the year before the battle and the year after the surrender. [38] 234,183 names were inscribed by the time of unveiling and new names are added each year. [39] [40] [41] 40,000 of the Okinawan civilians killed had been drafted or impressed by the Japanese army and are often counted as combat deaths.

Military losses Edit

American Edit

The Americans suffered over 75,000 – 82,000 casualties, including non-battle casualties (psychiatric, injuries, illnesses), of whom over 20,195 were dead (12,500 were killed in action, 7,700 died of wounds or non-combat deaths). Killed in action were 4,907 Navy, 4,675 Army, and 2,938 Marine Corps personnel. [9] The several thousand personnel who died indirectly (from wounds and other causes) at a later date are not included in the total.

The most famous American casualty was Lieutenant General Buckner, whose decision to attack the Japanese defenses head-on, although extremely costly in American lives, was ultimately successful. Four days from the closing of the campaign, Buckner was killed by Japanese artillery fire, which blew lethal slivers of coral into his body, while inspecting his troops at the front line. He was the highest-ranking US officer to be killed by enemy fire during the Second World War. The day after Buckner was killed, Brigadier General Easley was killed by Japanese machine gunfire. The famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle was also killed by Japanese machine-gun fire on Ie Shima, a small island just off of northwestern Okinawa. [42]

Aircraft losses over the three-month period were 768 US planes, including those bombing the Kyushu airfields launching kamikazes. Combat losses were 458, and the other 310 were operational accidents. At sea, 368 Allied ships—including 120 amphibious craft—were damaged while another 36—including 15 amphibious ships and 12 destroyers—were sunk during the Okinawa campaign. The US Navy's dead exceeded its wounded, with 4,907 killed and 4,874 wounded, primarily from kamikaze attacks. [43]

American personnel casualties included thousands of cases of mental breakdown. According to the account of the battle presented in Marine Corps Gazette:

More mental health issues arose from the Battle of Okinawa than any other battle in the Pacific during World War II. The constant bombardment from artillery and mortars coupled with the high casualty rates led to a great deal of personnel coming down with combat fatigue. Additionally, the rains caused mud that prevented tanks from moving and tracks from pulling out the dead, forcing Marines (who pride themselves on burying their dead in a proper and honorable manner) to leave their comrades where they lay. This, coupled with thousands of bodies both friend and foe littering the entire island, created a scent you could nearly taste. Morale was dangerously low by May and the state of discipline on a moral basis had a new low barometer for acceptable behavior. The ruthless atrocities by the Japanese throughout the war had already brought on an altered behavior (deemed so by traditional standards) by many Americans resulting in the desecration of Japanese remains, but the Japanese tactic of using the Okinawan people as human shields brought about a new aspect of terror and torment to the psychological capacity of the Americans. [13]

Medal of Honor recipients from Okinawa are:

    – 13 April – 16 April – 2 May – 14–15 May – 31 May – 14–17 May – 29 April – 21 May – 7 May – 2 May – 15 April – 10 May – 7 May – 14 May – 4 May – 8 June – 19–21 April – 10–11 June – 7 June – 19 June – 9 April – 15–16 May – 28 April – 7 May – 11 May

Japanese losses Edit

The US military estimates that 110,071 Japanese soldiers were killed during the battle. This total includes conscripted Okinawan civilians.

A total of 7,401 Japanese regulars and 3,400 Okinawan conscripts surrendered or were captured during the battle. Additional Japanese and renegade Okinawans were captured or surrendered over the next few months, bringing the total to 16,346. [12] : 489 This was the first battle in the Pacific War in which thousands of Japanese soldiers surrendered or were captured. Many of the prisoners were native Okinawans who had been pressed into service shortly before the battle and were less imbued with the Imperial Japanese Army's no-surrender doctrine. [21] When the American forces occupied the island, many Japanese soldiers put on Okinawan clothing to avoid capture, and some Okinawans would come to the Americans' aid by offering to identify these mainland Japanese.

The Japanese lost 16 combat vessels, including the super battleship Yamato. Early claims of Japanese aircraft losses put the total at 7,800, [12] : 474 however later examination of Japanese records revealed that Japanese aircraft losses at Okinawa were far below often-repeated US estimates for the campaign. [14] The number of conventional and kamikaze aircraft actually lost or expended by the 3rd, 5th, and 10th Air Fleets, combined with about 500 lost or expended by the Imperial Army at Okinawa, was roughly 1,430. [14] The Allies destroyed 27 Japanese tanks and 743 artillery pieces (including mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns), some of them eliminated by the naval and air bombardments but most knocked out by American counter-battery fire.

Civilian losses, suicides, and atrocities Edit

Some of the other islands that saw major battles in World War II, such as Iwo Jima, were uninhabited or had been evacuated. Okinawa, by contrast, had a large indigenous civilian population US Army records from the planning phase of the operation make the assumption that Okinawa was home to about 300,000 civilians. According to various estimates, between a tenth and a third of them died during the battle, [32] or between 30,000 and 100,000 people. The official US Tenth Army count for the 82-day campaign is a total of 142,058 recovered enemy bodies (including those civilians pressed into service by the Imperial Japanese Army), with the deduction made that about 42,000 were non-uniformed civilians who had been killed in the crossfire. Okinawa Prefecture's estimate is over 100,000 losses, [44]

During the battle, American forces found it difficult to distinguish civilians from soldiers. It became common for them to shoot at Okinawan houses, as one infantryman wrote:

There was some return fire from a few of the houses, but the others were probably occupied by civilians – and we didn't care. It was a terrible thing not to distinguish between the enemy and women and children. Americans always had great compassion, especially for children. Now we fired indiscriminately. [45]

In its history of the war, the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum [44] presents Okinawa as being caught between Japan and the United States. During the 1945 battle, the Imperial Japanese Army showed indifference to Okinawans' safety, and its soldiers even used civilians as human shields or just outright murdered them. The Japanese military also confiscated food from the Okinawans and executed those who hid it, leading to mass starvation, and forced civilians out of their shelters. Japanese soldiers also killed about 1,000 people who spoke in the Okinawan language to suppress spying. [46] The museum writes that "some were blown apart by [artillery] shells, some finding themselves in a hopeless situation were driven to suicide, some died of starvation, some succumbed to malaria, while others fell victim to the retreating Japanese troops." [44]

With the impending Japanese defeat, civilians often committed mass suicide, urged on by the Japanese soldiers who told locals that victorious American soldiers would go on a rampage of killing and raping. Ryūkyū Shimpō, one of the two major Okinawan newspapers, wrote in 2007: "There are many Okinawans who have testified that the Japanese Army directed them to commit suicide. There are also people who have testified that they were handed grenades by Japanese soldiers" to blow themselves up. [47] Thousands of civilians, having been induced by Japanese propaganda to believe that American soldiers were barbarians who committed horrible atrocities, killed their families and themselves to avoid capture at the hands of the Americans. Some of them threw themselves and their family members from the southern cliffs where the Peace Museum now resides. [48] Okinawans "were often surprised at the comparatively humane treatment they received from the American enemy". [49] [50] Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power by Mark Selden alleges that the Americans "did not pursue a policy of torture, rape, and murder of civilians as Japanese military officials had warned". [51] American Military Intelligence Corps [52] combat translators such as Teruto Tsubota managed to convince many civilians not to kill themselves. [53] Survivors of the mass suicides blamed also the indoctrination of their education system of the time, in which the Okinawans were taught to become "more Japanese than the Japanese", and were expected to prove it. [54]

Witnesses and historians claim that soldiers, mainly Japanese troops, raped Okinawan women during the battle. Rape by Japanese troops reportedly "became common" [ attribution needed ] in June, after it became clear that the Imperial Japanese Army had been defeated. [21] [12] : 462 Marine Corps officials in Okinawa and Washington have said that they knew of no rapes by American personnel in Okinawa at the end of the war. [55] There are, however, numerous credible testimony accounts which note that a large number of rapes were committed by American forces during the battle. This includes stories of rape after trading sexual favors or even marrying Americans, [56] such as the alleged incident in the village of Katsuyama, where civilians said they had formed a vigilante group to ambush and kill three black American soldiers who they claimed would frequently rape the local girls there. [57]

MEXT textbook controversy Edit

There is ongoing disagreement between Okinawa's local government and Japan's national government over the role of the Japanese military in civilian mass suicides during the battle. In March 2007, the national Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) advised textbook publishers to reword descriptions that the embattled Imperial Japanese Army forced civilians to kill themselves in the war to avoid being taken prisoner. MEXT preferred descriptions that just say that civilians received hand grenades from the Japanese military. This move sparked widespread protests among Okinawans. In June 2007, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly adopted a resolution stating, "We strongly call on the (national) government to retract the instruction and to immediately restore the description in the textbooks so the truth of the Battle of Okinawa will be handed down correctly and a tragic war will never happen again." [58] [59]

On 29 September 2007, about 110,000 people held the biggest political rally in the history of Okinawa to demand that MEXT retract its order to textbook publishers regarding revising the account of the civilian suicides. The resolution stated, "It is an undeniable fact that the 'multiple suicides' would not have occurred without the involvement of the Japanese military and any deletion of or revision to (the descriptions) is a denial and distortion of the many testimonies by those people who survived the incidents." [60] In December 2007, MEXT partially admitted the role of the Japanese military in civilian mass suicides. [61] The ministry's Textbook Authorization Council allowed the publishers to reinstate the reference that civilians "were forced into mass suicides by the Japanese military", on condition it is placed in sufficient context. The council report stated, "It can be said that from the viewpoint of the Okinawa residents, they were forced into the mass suicides." [62] That was not enough for the survivors who said it is important for children today to know what really happened. [63]

The Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburō Ōe wrote a booklet that states that the mass suicide order was given by the military during the battle. [64] He was sued by revisionists, including a wartime commander during the battle, who disputed this and wanted to stop publication of the booklet. At a court hearing, Ōe testified "Mass suicides were forced on Okinawa islanders under Japan's hierarchical social structure that ran through the state of Japan, the Japanese armed forces and local garrisons." [65] In March 2008, the Osaka Prefecture Court ruled in favor of Ōe, stating, "It can be said the military was deeply involved in the mass suicides." The court recognized the military's involvement in the mass suicides and murder-suicides, citing the testimony about the distribution of grenades for suicide by soldiers and the fact that mass suicides were not recorded on islands where the military was not stationed. [66]

In 2012, Korean-Japanese director Pak Su-nam announced her work on the documentary Nuchigafu (Okinawan for "only if one is alive") collecting living survivors' accounts to show "the truth of history to many people", alleging that "there were two types of orders for 'honorable deaths'—one for residents to kill each other and the other for the military to kill all residents". [67] In March 2013, Japanese textbook publisher Shimizu Shoin was permitted by MEXT to publish the statements that "Orders from Japanese soldiers led to Okinawans committing group suicide" and "The [Japanese] army caused many tragedies in Okinawa, killing local civilians and forcing them to commit mass suicide." [68]


Japan gov't vows to rebuild Okinawa's Shuri Castle in wake of devastating fire

TOKYO -- The Japanese government will do its best to rebuild the World Heritage-listed Shuri Castle in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, after the historical landmark including its main hall burned down early on Oct. 31, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

"It is part of the Okinawa Commemorative National Government Park. The government will do its best to rebuild the castle," Suga told a news conference on the morning of Oct. 31. He added that the cause of the fire is being investigated.

The castle complex, restored after World War II, "is situated on the site of the original Shuri Castle, which was listed in 2000 as a World Heritage site. We recognize it's an extremely important symbol of Okinawa," Suga said. "I express my sympathy to residents of Okinawa Prefecture from the bottom my heart. The incident is heartbreaking."


Okinawa is home to many castle ruins

Katsuren Castle is on the Katsuren Peninsula, overlooking both the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The 15th-century castle site is listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.

By Chiyomi Sumida | Stars and Stripes March 12, 2006

Okinawa is an island of castle ruins, the remains of a time when regional kings fought a series of wars that eventually led to a united Kingdom of the Ryukyus.

On Okinawa, castles are often called gusuku and, except for the reconstructed Shuri Castle, most now are but mere stone walls. At some sites, little is visible, yet their existence has a strong impact on today’s Okinawa.

“Gusuku still plays an important role in Okinawan society,” said Tohru Kinjo, a historian with the Okinawa Board of Education. “The places where gusuku stand are regarded as sacred sites.”

Kinjo, who is in charge of preservation and restoration of Okinawa’s cultural properties, said there are about 500 gusuku sites throughout the Ryukyu island chain. All are regarded as sacred and are used as sites of worship by the local residents.

Most gusuku origin dates are unknown, but other pieces of their history were well recorded.

Those led by powerful chieftains grew in stature, looming over lesser kingdoms and developing into strong fortresses, Kinjo said.

Three of the most famous chieftains in Okinawan history are Lord Amawari of Katsuren, Lord Gosamaru of Zakimi and Nakagusuku, and Lord Hananchi of Nakijin, all on the main island of Okinawa.

Archaeological excavations at these castle sites uncovered numerous pieces of valuable artifacts, proof that the chieftains enjoyed power and wealth by independently engaging in sea trade with China and other Southeast Asian countries.

Those three castles, together with Shuri Castle, which became Okinawa’s chief capital in the 1400s, were registered as World Heritage Sites in 2000 by UNESCO.

The castle sites sit atop spectacular hills that offers magnificent panoramic views of the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

One of the most popular sites among visitors is Katsuren Castle on Okinawa’s central eastern shore. Its walls once were the scene of royal intrigue. According to legend and historical accounts, King Sho Hashi considered a regional chieftain named Lord Amawari of Katsuren a powerful rival, so he sent his daughter, matchless beauty Momoto Fumiagari, to marry the young lord. The king then moved his faithful disciple Lord Gosamaru, from Zakimi Castle in the north, to Nakagusuku, just south of Katsuren, to keep a watchful eye on his ambitious son-in-law.

Amawari, whose dream was to unify the island under his control, eventually attacked and killed Gosamaru before an attempt to overthrow King Sho, but he was defeated and killed by the king’s men in 1458.

People in today’s Katsuren, however, read the history differently.

Amawari, who was capable and popular among his people, was a great threat to the king, according to Shinichi Miyagi, a historian for Uruma City’s Board of Education.

“He is remembered as a lord who is compassionate to his people,” Miyagi said.

Over the past decade, the people of Katsuren, who still revere Amawari as their great leader and hero, have begun to take steps to restore the dignity of their lord.

In 1997, a theatrical group of local high school students performed a musical entitled “Amawari.” The plot, based on Okinawa’s oldest chronicles, the Omorososhi, portrayed Amawari as a compassionate lord and a man with enterprising spirit, not as the traitor he is often portrayed as in traditional Okinawa plays.

The performance was well received, and since then, the group, called “Amawari Roman,” has performed it throughout Okinawa, said cast member Sayaka Nakachi. The musical has helped to change the image of Amawari from a traitor to a hero, she said.

“Many of us did not like our hometown until we started performing this musical,” said Natsumi Moriya, Nakachi’s sister and also a cast member. “But, now we are very proud of having the great man as our ancestor.”

A renewed interest in the past also is strong in other Okinawa communities, such as Hananchi in Nakijin, home of the lord of the island’s northern region until King Sho Hashi’s army defeated him in 1416. Today, all that’s left of his once impregnable citadel is a milelong section of gracefully curved stone walls.


Nakagusuku Castle Ruins will transport you back in time to around 14th or 15th century Okinawa while providing amazing views of the main island’s east coast.

For many, Shuri Castle might be at the top of the Okinawa bucket list, but add a stop to explore Nakagusuku, another UNESCO World Heritage site. This majestic location boasts both beauty and history.

Construction on the castle started in the 14th century and was completed in the mid-15th century as overseen by Gosmaru, a lord appointed as governor of the district by the Ryukyu Kingdom.

Gosamaru was known for his great fortification skills. His expertise is well reflected in some structures of the castle, many of which retain their original form, including the smooth curves that the stone walls and arches draw, as well as the methodical way each stone is stacked. Even Commodore Matthew Perry’s crews were impressed by the construction when they made a port call in 1853, according to the ruins website.

Although Gosamaru’s authority would come to a tragic end as accusations of treason led him to commit suicide in 1458, he is still fondly remembered and associated with this architectural masterpiece.

Just like other castle ruins in Okinawa, Nakagusuku Castle Ruins is composed of several flatlands called kuruwa. The castle ruins have six: south, west, north, first, second, and third kuruwa.

The south kuruwa served as a sanctuary while west kuruwa was used to train troops and horses. The first kuruwa, located at the center of the castle, is the biggest among the six and is considered a location for the main temple. The second kuruwa is known for its beautiful surrounding stone walls, and it has a place of worship. While these four kuruwa were constructed in the 14th century, the remaining two, the north and third kuruwa were constructed later by Gosamaru in the 15 century.

If you look closely at the walls of the third kuruwa, you would note that stones stack up differently from those of the original four kuruwa. The north kuruwa’s back gate was compared to an “Egyptian style” arch by Perry’s crew, according to a brochure. The north kuruwa also has a water well, which you can take a close look at by going down some stairs.

These six kuruwa amount to 14,473 ㎡ (the site itself is 110,473㎡ in total).

In December of 2000, Nakagusuku Castle Ruins were certified as a UNESCO World Heritage site along with other castle ruins and related properties in Okinawa.

Visiting this historical location is only a 10-minute drive from Camp Foster. Check it out for a brisk walk, great views and some history.

Nakagusuku Castle Ruins

GPS Coordinates: N 26.285650, E 127.803283

Admission: 400 yen for adult, 300 yen for mid and high school student, 200 yen for elementary school student

Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!

Follow us on social media!

Looking to travel while stationed abroad? Check out our other Pacific community sites!
Stripes Japan
Stripes Korea
Stripes Guam


Investigators inspect ruins of Japan’s Shuri Castle to determine cause of fire

This article was published more than 1 year ago. Some information in it may no longer be current.

Audio for this article is not available at this time.

This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy. Full Disclaimer

Investigators gather at the site of a fire at the historic Shuri Castle, in Naha, Okinawa, southern Japan, on Nov. 1, 2019.

Fire and police investigators inspected the burned-out ruins of Shuri Castle on Okinawa on Friday to determine the cause of the fire that nearly destroyed the symbol of the Japanese island’s cultural heritage and history of struggle.

The fire Thursday burned down the three main halls and four nearby structures at the castle in Okinawa’s prefectural capital of Naha. It took firefighters 11 hours to extinguish the blaze.

More than 130 investigators inspected the site on Friday, according to local officials. They believe the blaze started inside the Seiden, the castle’s centrepiece, around 2:30 a.m. when no one was around.

Story continues below advertisement

The late hour and the castle’s design, with a spacious wooden main hall connected to other main buildings by hallways, might have allowed the fire to spread quickly.

Shuri Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site which dates from the 1429-1879 Ryukyu Kingdom era. The castle, burned down during the Second World War, was largely restored in 1992 for the 20th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan that ended the island’s 27-year U.S. occupation. Historians and other experts had continued the restoration efforts until recently.

Many Okinawans expressed deep sorrow over the damage to the castle, which is a symbol of their cultural roots as well as the history of their struggle since the 1879 annexation by Japan.

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said his heart was broken, but expressed his determination to reconstruct the castle. Mr. Tamaki, who cut short a trip to South Korea and returned to Naha on Thursday, was in Tokyo on Friday meeting central government officials to seek their support.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed his sympathy to the Okinawans, adding that the government is willing to do everything it can to help the castle’s reconstruction.

Investigators were focusing on the ruins of the Seiden hall. Video on NHK public television, taken from a helicopter, showed dozens of officials in uniforms and white helmets searching through charred debris, putting pieces into buckets for further examination.

The fate of hundreds of historic Ryukyu arts and crafts also was uncertain. Fire officials said they believe treasures displayed at the castle were mostly replicas of originals kept in safe storage elsewhere, but were trying to confirm their whereabouts.


Investigators inspect ruined Okinawan castle for fire cause

TOKYO (AP) — Fire and police investigators inspected the burned-out ruins of Shuri Castle on Okinawa on Friday to determine the cause of the fire that nearly destroyed the symbol of the Japanese island's cultural heritage and history of struggle.

The fire Thursday burned down the three main halls and four nearby structures at the castle in Okinawa's prefectural capital of Naha. It took firefighters 11 hours to extinguish the blaze.

More than 130 investigators inspected the site Friday, according to local officials. They believe the blaze started inside the Seiden, the castle's centerpiece, around 2:30 a.m. when no one was around.

The late hour and the castle's design, with a spacious wooden main hall connected to other main buildings by hallways, might have allowed the fire to spread quickly.

Shuri Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site which dates from the 1429-1879 Ryukyu Kingdom era. The castle, burned down during World War II, was largely restored in 1992 for the 20th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japan that ended the island's 27-year U.S. occupation. Historians and other experts had continued the restoration efforts until recently.

Many Okinawans expressed deep sorrow over the damage to the castle, which is a symbol of their cultural roots as well as the history of their struggle since the 1879 annexation by Japan.

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said his heart was broken, but expressed his determination to reconstruct the castle. Tamaki, who cut short a trip to South Korea and returned to Naha on Thursday, was in Tokyo on Friday meeting central government officials to seek their support.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed his sympathy to the Okinawans, adding that the government is willing to do everything it can to help the castle's reconstruction.

Investigators were focusing on the ruins of the Seiden hall. Video on NHK public television, taken from a helicopter, showed dozens of officials in uniforms and white helmets searching through charred debris, putting pieces into buckets for further examination.

The fate of hundreds of historic Ryukyu arts and crafts also was uncertain. Fire officials said they believe treasures displayed at the castle were mostly replicas of originals kept in safe storage elsewhere, but were trying to confirm their whereabouts.

Okinawa Churashima Foundation, which oversaw the castle, said it could not immediately confirm the status of a collection of historical artifacts kept at the castle. It said more than 1,500 items including calligraphy scrolls, lacquerware and paintings were stored there, and about 400 of them may have been in buildings that burned down, Kyodo News reported. It said most of the items were stored in heat-resistant warehouses at the castle and may have been saved, but their condition could not be examined immediately due to high temperatures.

The castle had hydrants, alarms, portable extinguishers and water outside the buildings. But there were no sprinklers installed inside the buildings, Naha fire department official Ryo Kotani said.

The fire was detected when a security guard heard an alarm, Kotani said. The blaze had engulfed the hall and spread to nearby structures when firefighters arrived about 20 minutes later.

This story corrects spelling of the name of the organization overseeing the castle to Churashima instead of Churashma.


Shuri Castle in Okinawa: One Year Later, on the Fast Track to Reconstruction

Talks of rebuilding Okinawa’s Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, began soon after the castle burned down on October 31, 2019. It was perhaps the best way to cope with the grief of losing such an essential piece of Ryukyuan history. While grieving for the tremendous loss, the people of Okinawa knew from experience that they had to act fast. The devastating incident on that October night wasn’t the first time the castle complex had been damaged — it was burned down (and rebuilt) in 1453, 1660, 1709 and it suffered its most significant devastation in the war in 1945.

In 2020, restoration efforts are underway, bolstered by sizable donations and a plan to restore the castle’s former glory by 2026.

Shuri Castle after the 2019 fire. Photo taken in January 2020

Marking the First Anniversary from the Fire

On the first anniversary of the fire, Okinawa chose to mark the incident by focusing on the castle’s reconstruction. A night reception at Shuri Castle was held on October 29, 2020, tied with the then-ongoing Tourism Expo Japan in Naha. Present at the event were mostly travel professionals and ambassadors, who were greeted by the newly chosen King and Queen, characters played by locals, and the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Denny Tamaki.

Governor of Okinawa, Denny Tamaki (center) with the newly appointed Ryukyu King and Queen characters at the “Night Reception in Shurijo Castle” event in October 2020.

In his welcome speech, Tamaki thanked the government and everyone who had made donations and had supported the reconstruction project. The entire cost of the reconstruction has not been calculated yet, but so far, donations have reached 5 billion yen.

The outdoor event also included a tour of the reconstruction site, traditional performances and projection mapping on the Kankaimon Gate walls. For a limited time from September through November, visitors could also try VR and augmented reality to ‘see’ Shuri Castle in its previous glory before the Main Hall burned down.

In central Naha, from October 28 through November 15, the famed Kokusai Dori street, a light installation outlining the burned down Shuri Castle Main Hall to signify the hope of its restoration.

Shuri Castle Reconstruction Efforts and Issues

The Governor of Okinawa announced that the reconstruction of Shuri Castle is planned to be the fastest one yet, projected to be completed by 2026. With a slogan, “Reconstruction on display,” all stages of the reconstruction will be showcased. The castle complex became open to the public soon after the fire and visitors were invited to see part of the damage and the cleaning process.

On display behind glass walls is part of the original foundations of the now burned down Seiden (Main Hall). These ancient stone foundations are part of the World Heritage registration and they show the signs of previous destruction and reconstruction of the Main Hall. This area was opened to the public on June 12, 2020.

After cleaning the rubble, one of the first on-site activities was salvaging and cleaning red kawara roof tiles from the burned buildings, for which volunteers were recruited in March 2020. After the fire, the Okinawa Prefecture Ryukyu Red Tile Stucco Construction Cooperative issued a request for the preservation and reuse of as many red tiles from the fire as possible. They said that these unique Okinawan tiles are precious, and there is a tradition of reusing them. Above all, they feared that making the estimated 25,000 tiles needed would slow down the reconstruction. Currently, Okinawan artisans are producing brand new tiles, and there is an ongoing call for more volunteers to help with roof tile cleaning until December 24, 2020.

In addition to roof tiles, wood procurement has also posed a challenge. The reconstruction calls for 175 logs for main pillars for the Seiden alone, and the amount of all necessary wood is yet to be determined. In the last Shuri Castle reconstruction, special import permission was issued to Taiwanese cypress could be imported, the same type of wood used for castle repairs in the 20s and 30s. Okinawa Times reports for this reconstruction Japanese cypress is to be used, sourced from Okinawa and other parts of Japan. However, there are concerns about whether enough wood can be sourced within the time limit without causing environmental damage.

In history circles, there is an ongoing debate about the placement of the dragon pillars that survived the fire with some damage. Reconstructing the castle as it was, means the dragon pillars in front of the Main Hall will be facing each other. However, some people believe this is a chance to place them facing forward, as they were in the Shuri Castle before it was destroyed in World War II.

However, historians believe that this was a mistaken placement during the Meiji period. Travis Seifman, a postdoctoral researcher at the Historiographical Institute at the University of Tokyo, explains that most scholars believe that the dragons should be facing each other as per surviving Ryukyu Kingdom records and drawings. However, some locals remember the pre-war misplacement of them facing forward, in addition to feeling that position is more natural, just like Shisa lions and Komainu dogs are placed facing forward. The work on the massive dragon pillars is ongoing and can be observed behind the glass windows.

The final improvement on the agenda, to prevent future disasters, is installing fire sprinklers and other fire prevention gear on the castle premises.

How to help

Even a visit to Shuri Castle counts as support, seeing the ongoing reconstruction and keeping the tourist site lively. Despite the fire damage, the outer walls and famous castle gates are intact. The exterior walls called ‘gusuku,’ built in a Ryukyuan architectural style that differs from Japanese castles, are worth a visit alone.

If you want to contribute to the castle’s reconstruction efforts, there are donation funds you can pay into. More information here.

If you want to volunteer for the roof tile cleaning, you need to be at least 15 years old and able. There are more details about how to apply at the Shuri Castle website.


Remembering the Battle of Okinawa

In the spring of 1945, U.S. troops in the Pacific were nearing the final stages of their “island-hopping” campaign, a strategy designed to capture smaller islands in the Pacific and set up military bases in preparation for an invasion of Japan. Though the campaign was proving successful so far, it was also extremely costly: The 36-day Battle of Iwo Jima in February and March cost the United States more than 6,000 men (Japan lost 20,000).

Okinawa, located 350 miles from Japan’s southernmost island, Kyushu, was the main island in the Ryuku chain. Much of the island, which measured some 70 miles long and seven miles wide, with 463 square miles of area, was heavily cultivated with cane fields and rice paddies. Home to some 450,000 people, Okinawa boasted a larger population than other Pacific islands. Japan had annexed the island in 1879 and attempted to “Japanize” its inhabitants, who were viewed as second-class citizens by many Japanese, including soldiers in the Imperial Army. Okinawans were ethnically diverse, with different cultures, traditions and dialect than their Japanese neighbors. In the period leading up to the U.S. invasion, some civilians were evacuated from Okinawa, but most stayed put.

On April 1�ster Sunday�ter six days of bombardment, the troops of the U.S. 10th Army, commanded by General Simon B. Buckner, began their amphibious invasion of Okinawa. General Mitsuro Ushijima, leader of the more than 100,000 Japanese forces on Okinawa, made his headquarters in the 15th-century citadel of Shuri, at the southern end of the island. Determined to defend the southern, most heavily populated section of the island, he left the shoreline relatively undefended, waiting for the Americans to come to him.

It wasn’t until a few days into the invasion that the advancing U.S. soldiers realized the true nature of the battle they were facing. Tunnel systems connected the island’s caves, and Japanese machine gunners positioned themselves in hidden stone funeral vaults dotting the hills. The Japanese mounted few attacks themselves, conserving all their fire for defending their positions against American infantry advances.

As U.S. troops on Okinawa confronted such challenges, Japanese pilots began a barrage of kamikaze attacks on the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, waiting offshore in support of the invasion. Japan’s giant battleship Yamato even made its own suicide mission, attacking the U.S. fleet on April 7 accompanied by a light cruiser and eight destroyers. Struck by a wave of Allied torpedoes and bombs, Yamato blew up and sank, along with the light cruiser Yahagi, taking with them thousands of Japanese sailors.

Despite such spectacular gestures of futility, the kamikaze tactics used by Japan at Okinawa handed the U.S. Navy their worst losses of World War II. The U.S. fleet in the Pacific had experienced Japanese suicide attacks before, but never on such a scale. By the end of the Okinawa campaign, some 1,465 kamikaze pilots sank 29 U.S. ships and damaged 120 more, killing more than 3,000 sailors and wounding another 6,000 or so more.

By mid-May, U.S. forces had pushed Ushijima’s 32nd Army south to its final line of defenses at Mabuni. Hordes of civilians, whom Japanese soldiers terrified with tales of the brutality of U.S. troops, desperately followed the retreating army, often getting caught in the crossfire. Over some 10 days in mid- to late May, several regiments of U.S. Marines fought to secure Sugar Loaf Hill, a mound of earth barely 50 feet high and some 300 yards long, located on southern Okinawa. Concealed in a network of caves and tunnels with disguised firing positions, the Japanese troops defending Sugar Loaf were able to take out the tanks used to support the advancing Marines with mines, artillery and antitank fire. At the same time, their own positions were difficult to attack due to their camouflage. Many of the Marines who fought at Sugar Loaf never saw the enemy soldiers they faced. They finally secured the hill on May 18, after suffering some 2,662 casualties.

Forced to withdraw from Shuri Castle, Ushijima’s army had been reduced to some 30,000 men, and the battle was drawing to a close. Heavy losses still lay ahead for both sides. On June 18, General Buckner himself was killed by shell splinters while watching an attack by the Second Marine Division. Four days later, as defeat loomed, Ushijima and his subordinate, Lieutenant General Isamu Cho, committed ritual suicide in their command bunker at Mabuni.



Comments:

  1. Sabino

    Thanks to the author for an excellent post. I read it very carefully, found a lot of important things for myself.

  2. Tarisar

    I apologize, but in my opinion you are wrong. Write to me in PM, we will handle it.

  3. Reynard

    I can with you will consent.

  4. Maryann

    This very good idea is just about

  5. Yarema

    If you really wrote this for beginners, then you should have covered it in more detail ...

  6. Akiktilar

    It is an amusing piece



Write a message