Fire tears through historic Japanese Shuri Castle


A fire breaks out at the UNESCO's World Heritage site, Shuri Castle, in the southern prefecture of Okinawa on Thursday morning.

Okinawa's historic Shuri Castle was gutted by a fire early on the morning of October 31.

Mikiko Shiroma, the mayor of Naha, the main city on Okinawa and the site of the castle, told reporters that she was "very shocked" by the fire, which she called "extremely regrettable", according to the Japan Times.

The police are investigating the cause of the fire and said there have been no immediate reports of injuries as a result of the inferno.

No one was injured.

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An annual weeklong castle festival that began on Sunday was to run for a week but the remaining events were cancelled.

Television footage showed large orange flames engulfing the castle.

The castle whose architecture incorporated Japanese and Chinese culture was "the identity of Okinawa that was repaired after the war based on a strong local desire", Takara said. Some people were crying.

She also said she feels sorry for the tourists who had been looking forward to visiting the castle.

The castle, built about 500 years ago in the Ryukyu Dynasty, was designated Japan's national treasure in 1933.

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The original castle was destroyed near the end of World War II during the Battle of Okinawa after it was shelled by the battleship USS Mississippi. This fortress is a UNESCO world heritage site and it has vast cultural and historic importance for the people of Okinawa.

Shuri-jo castle was the central facility of the Ryukyu Kingdom that was established in the 15th century after the unification of three forces known as Hokuzan, Chuzan and Nanzan (literally, north mountain, central mountain and south mountain).

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference in Tokyo that the government will do all it can to reconstruct the gutted castle. The police and a local fire department said more than 10 fire engines have been dispatched.

The fire started in the elaborate main building of the complex, a grand red structure with traditional tiling on the roof, and spread quickly to nearby buildings.

20 firefighting teams are involved in the extinguishing of the fire.

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"I still can't accept this as a reality", Takara said. "It has taken more than 30 years and it was a monument of wisdom and effort of many people. Shuri Castle is not just about the buildings, but it reconstructed all the details, even including equipment inside".