The 67th GJS SeminarShuri Castle: Its Character and Significance from its 1992 Restoration to 2019 Destruction

Date and time: June 16, 2020 (Tue.), 4:00-5:00PM
Venue: Online (Zoom Webinar)
Speaker: Travis Seifman (Postdoctoral Project Researcher, University of Tokyo Historiographical Institute)
Language: Japanese
This is an online event with Zoom webinar. Please register here:

The destruction of the central structures at Okinawa’s Shuri castle in October 2019 spurred new discussions about the meaning and significance of the site – the former royal palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom – restored and opened to the public in 1992 for the first time since its destruction in 1945. Some see the restored castle as a mere tourist attraction, and a false reproduction of an authentic structure irrevocably lost; others see it as a symbol of the rich heritage, vibrant culture, and glorious history of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and of the resilience and revival of its people.
Drawing upon newspapers and other materials both from around the time of the restoration in 1989-1992, and from before and after the tragic 2019 fire, as well as conversations with Naha/Shuri residents today and others, I explore the meaning and significance of the site for the people of Okinawa, as well as their understanding of its authenticity and character.
In the process, I also question how we might understand Shuri castle, as it was operated from 1992 to 2019 and as it will presumably be operated again, within a context of Public History or Museum Studies. Were the buildings restored in 1992 and destroyed in 2019 a “museum”? How can a comparison with historic house museums, castle museums, and other institutions in mainland Japan and around the world provide insights into the character of the site as a venue for tourism, education, cultural activities, and how does its deeper cultural significance figure into this?


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Organizer: Global Japan Studies Network (GJS)
Co-organizer: Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA)
Contact: gjs[at]