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Okinawa castles to be nominated as World Heritage sites.

TOKYO, June 16 Kyodo

The Japanese government on Wednesday decided to nominate a group of ancient monuments in Okinawa Prefecture as candidate sites for the World Heritage List, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The monuments include the ruins of Shuri Castle, home of the former regional kings in the capital Naha, and the ruins of Nakagusuku Castle, which encompass the villages of Kitanakagusuku and Nakagusuku, the statement said.

The government plans to officially nominate the sites, which occupy a total area of 54.9 hectares, to the Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by July 1, it said.

The castle ruins are located on Okinawa's main island. The Cultural Affairs Agency said earlier the two castles display the distinctive characteristics of the culture of Ryukyu, the name formerly given to Okinawa.

In the mid-14th century, disputes by local rulers split the island into three kingdoms. In 1429 the island was unified by a king of the Sho dynasty, and remained so for four centuries.

Nakagusuku Castle was constructed during the period of division.

Shuri was the home of Ryukyu kings for 500 years until the island became a Japanese prefecture in 1879. Its walls and structures were destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa near the end of World War II but were later rebuilt.

Ryukyu culture contains strong influences from Southeast Asia, China and the Korean Peninsula developed through trade and migration.

The sites also contain evidence of the region's tradition of nature worship, the agency's officials said.

The World Heritage List currently has about 552 cultural and natural sites in more than 112 countries.

The selection of the candidate sites in Okinawa is expected to be made at a meeting of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee in December 2000.

Japan currently has nine sites on the list, including Shirakami-Sanchi forest, an ancient cedar forest on Yaku Island, Himeji Castle, the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima and a group of shrines and temples in Nara Prefecture.

Toshogu Shrine and adjacent cultural relics in the eastern Japan tourist town of Nikko are expected to be placed on the list at a meeting of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee in Morocco starting in late November.
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Comment:Okinawa castles to be nominated as World Heritage sites.
Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jun 21, 1999
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