Then and Now: Shurijo Castle From The Sky

Shurijo Castle was the majestic center of politics, diplomacy, and culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Trace the memory of the land through this collection of aerial imagery

By Okinawa Prefecture

Picture of the Mid-Autumn BanquetsOriginal Source: Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts University Library and Arts Museum

Shurijo Castle symbolizes the history and culture of Okinawa, and its history is that of the Ryukyu Kingdom itself

Shurijo Castle was the royal residence for the king and his family, and at the same time, it functioned as the Shuri Royal Government, a governing institution of the kingdom. It also was the core of religious networks that operated the rituals and ceremonies of the kingdom, executed by the priestesses dispatched at various locations throughout the land. In addition, performance arts and music flourished at Shurijo Castle and its surrounding areas, with many experts in the arts and crafts fields displaying and honing their skills. Shurijo Castle played was also the center of cultural arts in the kingdom.

Seiden (old photo)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts University Library and Arts Museum

The end of the Ryukyu Kingdom

In the spring of 1879, the king was banished from Shurijo Castle and Ryukyu Kingdom was annexed, and became Okinawa Prefecture. Later, Shurijo Castle was turned into a Japanese military post, and various schools and other facilities were housed here.

Shurijo Castle in 1945Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Archives

Burned out in the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. 

During the 1930s, there were large-scale repair works, but the castle was completely destroyed in the attack by the American forces in 1945.

Shurijo Castle Ruin and rubble of Shuri Castle in Shuri, Okinawa.Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Archives

Shurijo Castle Ruin and rubble of Shuri Castle in Shuri, Okinawa.

Shurijo Castle Ruin and rubble of Shuri Castle in Shuri, Okinawa.Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Archives

Castle Walls―Rubble of the walls of Shurijo castle below which lies the moat. In background is Shuri city. The battered trees are part of a grove which surrounded the castle.

Ruins of Shurijo Castle in 1953Original Source: University of the Ryukyus

Shurijo Castle ruins after the war 

After the war, the site became a campus for the University of the Ryukyus.

Shurijo Castle in 1992Original Source: Shurijo Castle Park

Shurijo Castle Park opened

In 1992, commemorating the 20th year since Okinawa’s reversion to Japan, Shurijo Castle was restored and opened as a national park. The restored Shurijo Castle is modeled after the castle from the 18th century and later. 

Shurijo Castle Park in 2000Original Source: Shurijo Castle Park

Registered as a World Heritage Site

In December  of 2000, “Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu” was registered under UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 11th of registered sites in all of Japan.

Shurijo Castle Park where the whole park openedOriginal Source: Shurijo Castle Park

Shurijo Castle Park where the whole park opened

Construction work continued even after the opening of the Shurijo Castle Park in 1992, restoring numerous structures and areas within the Castle, including Kyo-no Uchi, Shoin/Sasunoma, Kugani Udun, and others. With the February 2019 opening of the private living area of the royalty, known as Ouchibara, visitors were able to appreciate the overall layout of the castle grounds after 27 years since the opening of the Park.

Shurijo Castle Park after the fireOriginal Source: PASCO Corporation

Shurijo Castle Park after the fire

On October 31, 2019, a fire engulfed Shurijo Castle, and eight structures were destroyed, including the Seiden.

It is the current Shurijo Castle Park. We are aiming to rebuild these burnt down buildings.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Reconstructing Shurijo Castle
Discover how the Japanese World Heritage Site was digitally recreated from tourist photographs after a devastating fire in 2019
View theme
Google apps