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Travel News New UNESCO World Heritage Sites


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
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Japan is expanding its collection of UNESCO World Heritage sites:
  • on 26 July, the World Heritage Committee decided to list as Japan's fifth World Natural Heritage site the 43,000-hectare area comprising Amami-Oshima Island and Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture as well as the northern part of the main Okinawa Island and Iriomote Island in Okinawa Prefecture.
  • On 28 July, a UNESCO advisory panel recommended that the Jomon Period (10,000-200 B.C.) archaeological sites in northern Japan be added to the World Cultural Heritage list.
The group comprises 17 ancient sites across Hokkaido, Aomori, Iwate and Akita prefectures that reflect a hunter-gatherer society that prevailed in Japan for more than 10,000 years. If registered during an online World Heritage Committee session between July 16 and 31, the locations will be Japan's 20th World Cultural Heritage listing. Among the ruins, the Sannai Maruyama village in Aomori, which dates back around 5,900 years, features a large settlement with the remains of large buildings and roads arranged systematically. The Oyu Kanjo Resseki site in Akita, meanwhile, consists of a pair of large stone circles. The Japanese government recommended the archaeological sites to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2020, saying they represent an era that is believed to have begun 16,000 years ago with settlements based on hunting, fishing and plant gathering on the back of abundant food resources.

Meanwhile, Japan is facing severe criticism from UNESCO about the way it is exhibiting the world heritage site of “Battleship Island” (Gunkanjima 軍艦島, actually Hashima 端島):

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has taken exception to a Japanese exhibit on the Hashima Coal Mine on a tiny island off the coast of Nagasaki city. The committee passed a unanimous resolution on July 22 saying it “strongly regrets” the inadequate explanation about workers brought from the Korean Peninsula to work at the mine. [...] Properties of the “Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution,” including iron and steelmaking, shipbuilding and coal mining facilities, are located in eight prefectures, mainly in the southernmost main island of Kyushu. The administration of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promoted the designation of these properties as a World Heritage site, claiming they are valuable relics from the era when Japan started modernization. But South Korea opposed adding them to the list, citing Japan’s wartime mobilization of Korean workers. During a committee session prior to the designation, the Japanese government acknowledged that “there were a large number of Koreans and others who were brought against their will and forced to work under harsh conditions” at the coal mine and pledged to implement appropriate measures to remember these “victims.”

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