Long-lost portraits of Ryukyu Kings unveiled to media

Portraits of rulers of the Ryukyu Kingdom that existed in what is now Okinawa in southern Japan have been shown to the media for the first time since they were returned to the prefecture.

The portraits and other artifacts went missing in the chaos of the Battle of Okinawa fought between US and Japanese forces in the final days of World War Two.

Twenty-two items, including a map, incense burner, and the portraits called "Ogoe" were found in the United States last year and handed over to Okinawa Prefecture in March.

Eighteen of the items including two of the portraits were unveiled on Tuesday.

One, measuring about 180 centimeters square, depicts a king in the center wearing a costume and crown used for official events. Written near the bottom of the painting is the name "Shosei-sama." Prefectural officials say the portrait is believed to be that of the fourth monarch of the kingdom, King Shosei.

The other portrait is split into three parts with one segment measuring 109 centimeters in length. The officials say the king in the portrait is unknown.

There are two more portraits that were returned to the prefecture. They are believed to depict the 13th monarch, King Shokei, and the 18th monarch, King Shoiku, respectively. But these two paintings were not shown to the public as they are severely damaged. Photos of the full-size images were put on display instead.

At a ceremony, Okinawa Governor Tamaki Denny noted that many valuable cultural assets in the prefecture were destroyed by fire or lost during the war.

He said the recent return of artifacts is the greatest joy and truly significant for the people of Okinawa. He added the prefecture will carefully preserve and utilize the treasures.

Minister counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Japan, Philip Roskamp, said his country is honored to have played a role in returning the precious cultural assets. He expressed hope that more items will be discovered.

The prefecture plans to establish a panel of experts this month to conduct a detailed analysis of pigments and other materials and to discuss how to proceed with the restoration of the paintings.