A fire that took place in Okinawa, Japan on 30 October 2019 resulted in the loss of the Shuri Castle, which had been recognized as a national treasure in 1933 and added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000 as Japan’s 11th site. The fire, believed to be electrical in origin, decimated seven buildings including the main hall, and more than 400 works of art and other items.
The Shuri Castle dates back more than 500 years, and served as the heart of the Ryukyu Dynasty for over 400 years. The wooden structure was burnt during World War II and rebuilt, and the main hall was renovated in 1992. Writing in Japan Forward, Dr. Robert D. Eldridge suggests that an automatic sprinkler system was considered at that time but not installed. Ironically, the building was protected with exterior sprinklers from the possibility of an exposure fire.