Permanence and Change

From the Fortress to the Royal Court

Procession on a Mission to the Ryukyus (Excerpts)
© Okinawa Prefecrural Museum and Art Museum

1350        The Satto Dynasty began.
By this time, powers of ajis (local rulers) defending their own territories had been mostly integrated into the three kingdoms of Chuzan, Hokuzan and Nanzan.
1372        A tributary relationship was established with Ming China.
According to one account, Shuri-jô was built around this time and the royal capital of Chuzan was transferred from Urasoe. (Some say the transfer of the capital was conducted by Sho Hashi.)
1406 Sho Hashi destroyed Bunei, who had succeeded Satto. Hashi enthroned his father Shisho as king of the Chuzan Kingdom.
The first Sho Dynasty began.
1427 The Ankokuzan Jukabokunokihi stone monument was erected.
The inscription says that the Ryutan Pond was dug while the outer gardens of Shuri-jô, Ankokuzan (present-day Josei Elementary School area) were heaped up using the dug soil. Flowers and trees were planted. This indicates that, at least by this time, Shuri-jô had been developed to serve as a royal capital.
1429 Ryukyu Kingdom was established.
Sho Hashi united the three kingdoms and designated Shuri-jô as a center of the royal government.

Reconstructions and Renovations over time

1450        According to Korean people who drifted down as far as Ryukyu, the Seiden (State Hall) was a three-story structure. The king would sit on the upper floor of the hall while his retainers, dressed in formal attire, had an audience with him from the courtyard.

1453 The State Hall was burned down during the Battle of Shiro and Furi. Although there are no records, it may have been reconstructed by 1456.
This civil war was fought between the fifth king's son and his younger brother competing for the throne, splitting the royal government in two and costing both nephew and uncle their lives.
1454 Sho Taikyu ascended the throne.
Around this time, Kaiinshoko, a Zen priest of the Rinzai sect, arrived in Ryukyu and many temples were built. Kaiinshoko served until the reign of King Sho Shin.
1456 According to a Korean who drifted down to the Ryukyus in 1456, as well as another Korean who drifted there in 1460, the State Hall was a three-story structure painted in vermilion with a shingle roof decorated with tin, and where the king would sit on the second story.
1458 The bell named “Bridge of Nations” was cast and hung in the State Hall.
The bell survived the Battle of Okinawa and is now housed in the Okinawa Prefectural Museum.
During the rebellion of Gosamaru and Amawari, powerful ajis were destroyed.
1466 The Amami Islands came under the control of Ryukyu.
1470 Sho En ascended the throne and the second Sho Dynasty began.
1477 Sho Shin ascended the throne. During his reign, until 1527, he strengthened the centralization of power and established local administrative divisions.
Ajis who had been governing each area were made to live in Shuri town, and the position and court rank system was established.
1494 Enkakuji Temple was constructed.
1500 The Akahachi-Hongawara Rebellion took place. Thereafter, the royal government took full control of the Miyako and Yaeyama areas.
1501 The Tamaudun (royal mausoleum) was constructed.
1508 Hand railings made of Chinese diorite were built along the façade of the State Hall.
The inscription on the baluster describes that the railings were installed in line with the Chinese court system. A pair of large dragon pillars made of Chinese diorite were also built around this time. What are thought to be the remnants of these dragon pillars are now included in a collection at the University of the Ryukyus Museum.
  During the reigns of King Sho Shin (1477-1527) and King Sho Sei (1527-1555), the outer ramparts were extended north and southeast, and North Hall, Shureimon Gate, Kankaimon Gate, Kyukeimon Gate and Keiseimon Gate were built. The appearance approached that of present-day Shuri-jô.
1534 According to the records of a Chinese envoy named Chen Kan, the State Hall faced west, and there were seven bays on each of the south and west sides.
1609 Ryukyu was invaded by Shimazu, one of the feudal domains of Japan.
After this invasion, the Ryukyu kingdom had come under the rule of the Satsuma (Shimazu) Domain, yet the nominal independency was sustained and tributary relations with the Ming and Qing dynasties of China was maintained.
  1621 South Hall was constructed around this time.

1660 The State Hall was totally destroyed by fire, and the royal government was moved outside the castle.
1667 The pair of dragon pillars were reconstructed with Nibinuhuni (fine-grained sandstone).
What are thought to be the remnants of these dragon pillars are now included in a collection at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum.
1671 Reconstruction work executed by Haneji Choshu (Sho Shoken) was completed.
During this reconstruction, the roof of the State Hall was changed from shingle to tile. An article in “Genealogy and records of Sho Family” describes the reconstruction. In addition to the State Hall, many other halls and gates were reconstructed and restored.
1682 The State Hall underwent major restoration. Five-colored dragon-head ornaments were placed on the roof of the State Hall.
1683 A report by Wang Ji, a Chinese envoy, notes that the State Hall faced west, with each side having seven bays.


Shuri-jô Seiden Maeshiro Moto Chushuen Setsuei Ezu © Photo by Yoshitaro Kamakura, University Library and Arts Museum, Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts

Shuri-jô Seiden Maeshiro Moto Setsuei Ezu © Photo by Yoshitaro Kamakura, University Library and Arts Museum, Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts

1709 The State Hall was completely destroyed by fire.
1712 Reconstruction work started, and was completed in 1715.
The façade of the State Hall had a karahafu, a Chinese cusped gable. (Karahafu is mentioned in "Ryukyus Country Records of Origins" of 1713.) The gable was probably one bay-wide at this time. In addition to the State Hall, many other halls and gates were rebuilt and restored. For this work, 19,525 trees were procured from the Satsuma Domain. At this time, the stone railings were also rebuilt. It is thought that the State Hall that was later destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa had been reconstructed at this time and undergone major restorations afterward.
The pair of dragon pillars were reconstructed with Nibinuhuni (fine-grained sandstone). What are thought to be the remnants of the dragon pillars are now included in a collection at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and the University of the Ryukyu Museum. These pillars are believed to have been destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa.
1713 Ryukyu government officers, Mao Wenzhe and Sai On conducted a Feng Shui inspection of Shuri-jô and other sites.
1719 Xu Baoguang, a Chinese envoy, visited the Ryukyus.
“Records of Messages from Chuzan” by Xu Baoguang describes the State Hall as having nine bays. A Chinese cusped gable is shown in the picture.

Zhong Shan Wangfu Mid-Autumn banquet from Zhongshan Denshinroku © Naha City Museum of History

1728 Sai On became a member of the Sanshikan, the Council of Three (prime minister).
While promoting national political reform, he also reformed the rituals and ceremonies within Shuri-jô.
1729 The State Hall went through major restoration.
"Kyuyo" writes that Usasuka, the throne, was established in the centre of the State Hall. An eulogistic name of the State Hall was changed Karahafu with new Chinese characters.
  1736   North Hall was restored.
1756 Zhou Huang, a Chinese envoy, arrived in the Ryukyu Islands.
"Outline History of the Ryukyu Kingdom" by Zhou Huang describes the State Hall as having nine bays, with a narrow room on both the right and left sides. This floor plan corresponds with the records for the restoration of 1768 (Sunpoki).
1768 The State Hall underwent major restoration

The Momourasoe Udun Fushinnitsuki Miezu Narabi ni Gozaimoku Sunpoki (Construction Plan of the Momourazoe Udu (State hall) and Timber Dimention) © Photo by Yoshitaro Kamakura, University Library and Arts Museum, Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts.

  "Momourasoe Udun Fushintsuki Miezu Narabini Ozaimoku Sunpoki" (Sunpoki)(included in the Kamakura Collection at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts) serves as a record of this work. According to this document, the floor plan shows the front to have nine bays with a slightly narrower single bay on right and left sides, and each side with seven bays. In the centre of the facade, there is a five bay-wide platform that protrudes, and a three bay-wide kohai (roof built atop the stairs) with overhanging Chinese cusped gables.
A major earthquake that year caused part of the castle walls to collapse.
  1806   Kofukumon Gate was repaired.
1811 The State Hall went through major restoration.
1839 A manuscript of “Zucho Sedokata” was created.
1846 The State Hall underwent major restoration
Records of this work include "Momourasoe Udun Gofushin Nikki," "Momourasoe Gofushin Nikki," "Momourasoe Gofushin Nikki Tokata," and "Momourasoe Gofushin Ezucho" (included in the collection known as Sho Family Documents housed in the Naha City Museum of History).
  1851   The castle gates were reinforced and masonry joints for the ramparts were strengthened with lime mortar to increase security, in response to the visits of foreigners.
  1858 Kankaimon Gate was restored.
1866 A Chinese envoy visited. Kansennotoki Uzagamaenozu and Kansennnotoki Odogunozu were prepared to receive the envoy.

The photo taken by Jules Revertégat, a French lieutenant of the Navy who was a member of the French diplomatic mission. The oldest photo of Shuri-jô © Courtesy of Mr. Hervé Bernard, France

Decay during Meiji era Japan and the large-scale restoration of the late 1920s

1879        Ryukyu Disposition
The new Meiji government abolished the Ryukyu Kingdom and created Okinawa Prefecture.
Shuri-jô was surrendered, after which it was left to decay and deterioration.
1879 The Okinawa Sub-Unit Troop of the Kumamoto Army Sector was stationed at Shuri-jô, and the State Hall was used as army barracks.

Drawing of Okinawa Pref. Ryukyu Kingdom former Shuri-jô © Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, Kumamoto Army Sector’s name plate is visible at Kankaimon.

1896 The sub-unit ended its deployment in Okinawa. One of the dragon pillar was cut with the intention of moving it.
After this, the State Hall was used as a school building and served as the Okinawa Prefectural Teachers’ College, Shuri District Technical Apprentice School, Shuri District Women’s Polytechnic School and Shuri Higher Elementary School.

Looms can be seen on the second floor. © Photo by Yoshitaro Kamakura, University Library and Arts Museum, Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts

1909 Shuri-jô buildings and grounds were sold to Shuri Ward.
1910 At the request of the Shrine Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Okinawa Prefectural Government made plans to build the Okinawa Prefectural Shrine on the site of what would be the demolished State Hall. These plans were later revised four times due to disasters, the emperor's demise, and reconsidering the area and the deities to be enshrined.
1911 An earthquake damaged the State Hall.
1921 Kamakura Yoshitaro was assigned to a two-year term as a drawing teacher at Okinawa Prefectural Teachers’ College for Women and Okinawa Prefectural Women’s High School in Asato.
1923 The Ministry of Home Affairs approved a proposal to build a prefectural shrine. The Shuri City Council voted to demolish the State Hall.
1924 Dismantling of the State Hall began in March.
Kamakura Yoshitaro learned about this from a newspaper in Tokyo and informed Ito Chuta, who was an authority on the preservation of old shrines and temples. Ito successfully urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to stop the demolition.
1924 –
Kamakura Yoshitaro received a research grant from Keimeikai to study Ryukyu art.
1925 The State Hall was designated as a special protected building in a name of the Worship Hall of Okinawa Shrine under the Law for the Preservation of Ancient Shrines and Temples (1897-1929).
1928 The restoration project for the Worship Hall of Okinawa Shrine (the State Hall) started.
1929 The National Treasure Preservation Act (1929-1950) was enacted, designating the Worship Hall of Okinawa Shrine as a national treasure.
1930 A typhoon severely damaged the State Hall, causing roof-tiles to collapse.
Yanaguida Kikuzo, an engineer for the central government, was assigned to supervise the restoration.
The central government dispatched Sakatani Ryonoshin to inspect the restoration work and to make a list of candidate buildings for national treasure designation.

Picture of damaged Okinawa Shrine Hall of Worship (Notes written by Sakatani Ryonoshin) © ”Pre-war Okinawa and Amami Photo Book” held by Okinawa Prefectural Library CC BY 4.0

  1933   Kankaimon Gate, Zuisenmon Gate, Hakuginmon Gate and Shureimon Gate were designated as national treasures.
1933 The restoration project for the Worship Hall of Okinawa Shrine (State Hall) was completed.
“Drawings of the National Treasure Worship Hall of Okinawa Shrine” was prepared for this restoration work.
  1936   Shureimon Gate was restored. (by Mori Masazo・Nakaza Hisao)

Rain of Iron and Fire

“At about 9 a.m. on 29 (May 1945), the third battalion of the fifth regiment attacked the Shuri highlands. (omission) That night, we dug a trench near Shuri-jô to rest, filled with a sense of accomplishment. That’s because we all knew how important the strategy of conquering Shuri was in implementing the operation. Although now in ruins, it can be understood that the area around Shuri-jô had been a scenic place until it was destroyed by the constant bombardment of the American troops. The castle itself is a miserable site and its original appearance is almost unimaginable. All we could barely imagine was that it was an old stone building, surrounded by terraces and what looked like gardens and an outer moat. While I was walking through the rubble, I stared at the stone pavement, stone structures, and charred tree trunks. I couldn't help but think how beautiful it must have been before.”
《 “With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa,” by Eugene B Sledge. Translated by Ito Makoto and Soda Kazuko/Kodansha Gakujutsubunko p 415-416》

Decay and rubble of Shuri-jô © From "Okinawa as Told by Photographs," Okinawa Prefectural Archives

1944        On March 15th, the 32nd army troop was formed.
Some of the buildings in the castle used for the National Elementary School were requisitioned as army barracks by the ninth division.
On October 10th, Naha City was turned into scorched earth by an air raid.
1945 In March, the 32nd army headquarters tunnel was completed under Shuri-jô.
On April 1st, Allied forces landed on the main island of Okinawa.
The State Hall was destroyed in the battle. There is testimony that it was burned down on April 18th, but the actual date is unconfirmed.
On May 27th, the army headquarters abandoned the tunnel under Shuri-jô and withdrew to the south.
On June 23rd, Commander Ushijima Mitsuru and others committed suicide in the tunnel of Mabuni. Although the organized fighting was over, a battle of attrition continued, involving many Okinawan residents with the order, "Every man in these fortifications will follow his superior officer’s order and fight to the end for the sake of the motherland.”

The beginnings of Reconstruction


People in US military prison camp on mainland Okinawa © From "Okinawa as Told by Photographs," Okinawa Prefectural Archives

1945        At the same time as the landing on Okinawa in April, the Nimitz Proclamation (US Navy Military Government Proclamation No.1) was issued.
The documents proclaimed the cessation of Japanese sovereignty over the South-west Islands region. The occupation of Okinawa by the U.S. military government began.
1948 The Director-General of the Allied forces’ GHQ Ryukyu Bureau visited the site of Shuri-jô. A proposal was made to establish a university.
1950 University of the Ryukyus opened on the site of Shuri-jô, starting with six departments, 562 students and 44 faculty members.
The State Hall site was mainly used as a parking lot.

Construction of the University of the Ryukyus © Naha City Museum of History

1951 The occupation of Japan ended with the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty.
The South-west Islands region, however, remained under occupation.
1955 The Ryukyu government designated the ruins of Shuri-jô as a historic site.
  1958   The reconstruction of Shureimon Gate was completed.
1966 University of the Ryukyus came under the jurisdiction of the Ryukyu government.
1970 A reconstruction plan for Shuri-jô was formulated by the Ryukyu government's Committee for the Protection of Cultural Properties.
1972 An exhibition titled "Okinawa of 50 Years Ago: Lost Cultural Properties in Photographs" was held in Okinawa and Tokyo.
It exhibited some 400 photos taken by Kamakura Yoshitaro during his research on Ryukyu art from 1924 to 1927.
1972 Okinawa was returned to mainland Japan in May.
The First Okinawa Promotion and Development Plan was formulated, and it specified to push the restoration of war-damaged cultural properties forward.
Shuri-jô ruins were designated as a national historic site. The Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education implemented a project to restore the castle ramparts. The restoration project continued every year, and the restoration of all ramparts was completed in 2001.
1973 The Association to Promote Shuri-jô Reconstruction was formed. Yara Chobyo, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, became the first chairperson.
  1974   Reconstruction of Kankaimon Gate was completed.
1982 In the second Okinawa Promotion and Development Plan, a study on the development of the Shuri-jô area was proposed.
  1983   Reconstruction of Kyukeimon Gate was completed.

Restored Kyukeimon and castle walls © Junko Mukai

1984 University of the Ryukyus completed relocation to its current site.
The Civil Engineering and Construction Department of Okinawa Prefecture formulated the Shuri-jô Park Master Plan. In this plan, the Suimui or Shuri Forest concept was presented.
The LDP's Subcommittee on the Restoration of Cultural Properties Lost in the Battle of Okinawa announced a plan to develop the Shuri-jô area as a national park. This made it possible to implement the project with a budget that was separate from the cultural property administration.
Aiming at the reconstruction of Shuri-jô, the collection and study of literature commenced.
1985 The government's proposed budget included funds for basic research on Shuri-jô the State Hall and others.
The Cultural Properties Division of the Okinawa Prefectural Education Bureau conducted an archaeological excavation of the State Hall area (~1986).
1986 With the opening of the Prefectural University of Arts, materials collected and documented by Kamakura Yoshitaro were donated.
The cabinet decided to develop the Shuri-jô area as the National Okinawa Memorial Park Shuri-jô Castle District in November.
As part of a project to commemorate the return of Okinawa to Japan, a 4-hectare portion of the Shuri-jô site was slated for development. The work done for the State Hall was under the jurisdiction of the National Okinawa Memorial Park Management Office of the Okinawa General Bureau, while the reconstruction of other buildings and the courtyard were under the jurisdiction of the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (now the Urban Renaissance Agency).
It was decided that the Shuri-jô Park land that fell outside the national park would be developed as a prefectural park.
1987 City plans were determined for 17.8 hectares of the Shuri-jô Park area, including 4.7 hectares of national park area.
1989 A ground-breaking ceremony for the State Hall took place.
1992 Reconstruction work for the State Hall was completed.
Reconstruction of Hoshinmon Gate, South Hall, Bansyo, North Hall, Zuisenmon Gate, Rokokumon Gate and Kofukumon Gate was completed. Repair work for the castle walls was completed and Shuri-jô Park opened.

Shuri-jô Park at the opening in 1992 © Naha City Museum of History

1995 Old documents owned by the Sho family were donated to Naha City by Mr. Sho Hiroshi. In the following year, artworks and crafts preserved by the Sho family were also donated.
  1996 The eastern lookout point was restored.
  1997 Suimuiutaki was restored.
  1998   Keiseimon Gate was restored.
2000 “The Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Ryukyu Kingdom” were inscribed as a World Heritage property.
During the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, the Shuri-jô North Hall was used as a reception site.
  2000 Nikeiudun, Keizuza, Youmotsuza, Tomoya, Uekimon Gate and Nichieidai Gate were reconstructed.
  2003   The Kyonouchi area was opened to the public.
2006 “Ryukyu King Sho Family Related Documents” were designated as a national treasure. They include artworks, crafts and documents, and are housed in the Naha City Museum of History, which opened a month after the designation.
  2007 Shoin and Sasunoma were reconstructed.
  2010 Shukujunmon Gate was reconstructed.
  2013 Repair work for Shureimon Gate was completed.
  2014 Kinju Tsumesho, Kuganiudun, Yuinchi and Okushoin were reconstructed.
  2016 Yohokoriden, Nyokankyoshitsu and Zenikura were reconstructed.
  2018 The castle walls of the Ouchibaru area were restored.
  2019   The entire park was opened in February.
2019 On October 31st, a fire completely destroyed the State Hall, together with six neighboring buildings, including North Hall and South Hall.