TOKYO >> A team consisting of about 20 experts from Japan and abroad has embarked on a project to create a 3D model of Shuri Castle, which was destroyed Oct. 31 in a fire in Naha, Okinawa.
The group has been seeking data of the castle from the world community, such as vacation photos and other visual documentation, for the digital reconstruction.
The project was initiated by Rei Kawakami, a lecturer at the University of Tokyo who specializes in image processing. The team includes Kawakami’s mentor, her research colleagues and engineers. They plan to reproduce an exact and complete 3D model of the castle before it was hit by the fire, using images taken from various angles.
The more data they gather, the more accurately they will be able to digitally reproduce the colors, shapes and details of the structure.
As of Nov. 14, some 16,000 photos have been submitted from around the world, including Taiwan, the United States, Australia and more. The project aims to collect 1 million images.
The completed model will be donated to Okinawa Prefecture.
When the fire engulfed the castle, Kawakami was in Seoul at an international conference. She stayed abreast of the news coverage, recalling her many visits to the castle. She said she was deeply saddened by a particular report about children who were so shaken by the fire they couldn’t attend school.
Kawakami decided: “Grief won’t change anything. I should do whatever I possibly can.” She began by reaching out online and via Twitter.
Drawing on her experience creating 3D models of temples in the Angkor Wat complex of Cambodia and other historic sites in Japan and abroad, Kawakami knew that people have strong attachments to cultural sites.
The newest member of the team surely could empathize. This expert was an engineer for a company that helped create the digital restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral that was ravaged by fire in Paris.
When the team began its work, it collected 350 photos of the castle online, and using 50 images, created an improvised 3D model of Shuri Castle, now viewable at our-shurijo.org, a website they launched a few days after the fire.
Visit the site for information on sharing an image.