Photograph of Shuri Castle taken 130 years ago found in Yamagata

Photograph of Shuri Castle taken 130 years ago found in Yamagata

The old photograph of Shuri Castle found among the Uesugi family collection (Provided by the Uesugi Museum in Yonezawa, Yamagata).

February 6, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

Rare photographs of Shuri Castle and other scenes in Okinawa, which, experts speculate, were taken soon after Haihan-chiken, the feudal domain system, was abolished and the prefectural system was introduced in Okinawa in 1879, were found among the possessions of the the Uesugi family in Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture. Mochinori Uesugi from Yamagata, formerly known as Yonezawa Han in the Tohoku area, was the second Okinawa prefectural governor, from 1881 to 1883. Shuri Castle was destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa.

The photograph of Shuri Castle was taken from an angle overlooking the main gate Kankaimon and the Kyukeimon from the top of the castle wall at the back of the Hokuden (North Hall).

Okinawa history experts claim this is a valuable photograph.

Eight photographs featuring Okinawa are on view in the special exhibition titled “The Uesugi family’s old photographs – the Earl Uesugi’s life in Yonezawa,” which started on February 6 and will end on March 21.
Included are photographs of Shurei no mon, or Shurei gate; port scenes at Watanji and Tondo; Sogenji Bridge; a performer of Kumiodori, traditional Okinawan music and dance drama; and a woman in the entertainment area in Tsuji. The pictures are Japanese business card size (9 cm x 5.5 cm).

Professor emeritus at the University of Ryukyus Kurayoshi Takara, who was involved in the restoration work of Shuri Castle, said, “This is the first photograph that provides a whole image of the barbican of Kyukeimon and its proportions.” He added, “We can feel the atmosphere of the Shuri Castle in those bygone days before the Kumamoto garrison, a garrison of soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army stationed in Okinawa, reformed it. It is a valuable photograph.”

For further details, call the Yonezawa City Uesugi Museum on 0238-26-8001.

(English translation by T&CT)

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