Shuri Castle observation deck opens to view reconstruction 2 years after fire at Okinawa landmark

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A temporary observation deck and walkway is seen in Naha on Saturday near the site where Shuri Castle’s Seiden main hall used to stand before it was destroyed in a 2019 fire.

NAHA — Two years after the blaze that destroyed most of Shuri Castle, a World Heritage site in Naha, the central government hopes to keep the public interested in the reconstruction project with a recently opened temporary observation deck where visitors can view the progress.

The fire broke out in the predawn hours of Oct. 31, 2019, in the Seiden main hall, spreading to nearby structures including the Hokuden north hall, the Nanden south hall and the Hoshinmon gate.

The central government is scheduled to start reconstruction of the main hall in the fiscal year that begins next April and complete it by 2026.

The deck has been set up as a walkway through the yard in front of the main hall and opened to visitors on Oct. 27. From the deck, visitors can see the underground remains of the main hall.

Also on display along the walkway are photos from the 1992 work to restore the castle, which burned down during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

Following the 2019 blaze, donations given to the Okinawa prefectural government and the Naha municipal government have totaled about ¥5.3 billion. The funds are planned to be spent on procuring wood and red tiles and restoring the interior decorations.

About 1.77 million people visited Shurijo Castle Park in fiscal 2018, which ran from April 2018 through March 2019, but the number plummeted to about 210,000 in fiscal 2020 due to the destruction from the fire and the novel coronavirus pandemic.

This year, the park was closed from June due to a surge in virus infections, reopening Oct. 1 after a state of emergency ended.