The Asia-Pacific Journal: “Shuri Castle and Japanese Castles: A Controversial Heritage”

Oleg Benesch and Ran Zwigenberg on the history of Shuri Castle, in the context of other replica imperial castles from before the Meiji Restoration:

Like hundreds of other castles, Shuri was taken over by the central government in the early Meiji period (1868-1912). Like dozens of other castles, Shuri eventually became a garrison for the modern military. Like the castles at Nagoya, Hiroshima, Wakayama, Okayama, Ogaki, and Fukuyama, it was destroyed by US bombs in 1945. Like many other castles, it was demilitarized under the US Occupation and came to host cultural and educational facilities. The reconstruction of Shuri Castle from wood using traditional techniques in 1992 echoed similar projects at Kanazawa, Kakegawa, and Ōzu, as well as dozens of planned reconstructions. 1992 also saw the designation of Himeji Castle as one of Japan’s first two UNESCO World Heritage sites, eight years before Shuri received that designation. For many regions in Japan, castles have played a similar role to Shuri, serving at times as symbols of connection to the nation, and at times as symbols of a local identity opposed to the often oppressive power of the central state. Examining the modern history of Shuri Castle as a Japanese castle can further complicate our understandings of the complex dynamics of Okinawa’s relationship with Japan over the past 150 years.