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UNESCO RECOGNIZES OKINAWAN TREASURES:
Ruins Become Japan's Eleventh World Heritage Site
February 1, 2001
Though it is now part of Japan, several hundred years ago Okinawa was a separate country known as the Ryukyu Kingdom, and many gusuku (castles) and other ruins remain on the islands as legacies of this era. On November 30, 2000, the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added Shuri Castle and other Okinawan ruins to its World Heritage List of cultural treasures. The Okinawan ruins are the eleventh cultural treasure in Japan to be added to the list. The previous Japanese addition to the list were several shrines and a temple in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, which were listed in December 1999.
The Uniqueness of Okinawa
Thanks to cultural influences not only from China but also from the Korean Peninsula and Southeast Asia, Okinawa has a culture all of its own, distinct from that of other parts of Japan. And Okinawan hospitality is in a class by itself too; it warmed the hearts not only of the journalists sent to cover the G8 summit meeting, but also of the leaders of the participating nations.
Legacies of the Ryukyu Kingdom
All of these structures were created between the latter half of the fourteenth century, when the Ryukyus established a unified kingdom, and the end of the eighteenth century. Shuri Castle, where a dinner party for the G8 summit leaders was held, once functioned as the residence of the Ryukyu kings. Gusuku served as a defensive stronghold and a base for powerful families, or aji, during the process of the kingdom's political unification, and as a spiritual bedrock where the community established solidarity through such practices as ancestor worship. The castle gate, where state religious rituals were held, expresses the unique, nature-based religious faith of the Ryukyu culture.
Copyright (c) 2001 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.