Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu (Japan)首里城の再建について
On October 31st, 2019, a fire occurred in Shuri-jo Castle, which archaeological site is one of the components of the WH site “Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu”, in Okinawa Prefecture.
2020 State of Conservation Report https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/972/documents/
The fire, most probably due to a fault in the electrical system inside the State Hall (Seiden), affected eleven buildings (destroyed or partially destroyed) that were constructed in the 1980s and 90s, for exhibition purposes, upon the archaeological remains of the castle. The construction of those replicas, after that the medieval buildings were destroyed during the Second World War, had a strong symbolic meaning and has been the opportunity for a thorough scientific research. This time, therefore, the case is quite different from that of Nôtre-Dame in Paris, for example, but the works still keep an extremely important meaning and community participation, as testified by the enthusiasm and donations for these works not only from all over Japan, but also from outside Japan. The donations collected by Naha City, where the castle remains are located, were also possible thanks to a tax system already put into place by the Japanese government for social welfare purposes (including cultural properties conservation activities), the Furusato (Hometown) Tax Donations, which are deductible. A crowdfunding campaign was established from November 1st, 2019 to March 31st, 2020 and received 942,269,103 Japanese yen (around 8,603,860 USD) from 53,199 donors.
There is still a long way to go until the conservation and preservation of the remains and the reconstruction projects will be completed, and discussions on the management of the site, on risk preparedness, as well as on the reconstruction are still going on. However, this tragic event once again brings to the attention the need for a safe and effective fire prevention system in heritage sites, but it also demonstrates that a site cared for by the community is able to better face a difficult situation.