Fuji on Top of the World

Chubu News & Views Travel - May 1st, 2013
Akihito Fujii Mt. Fuji Flickr

Officials and business-owners connected to Mt. Fuji will be waking up on top of the world today, after good news came from UNESCO late Tuesday – a panel has recommended World Heritage status be granted to what for many is the symbol of Japan.

Formal listing is expected to be completed in June, when a panel of UNESCO members meets in Cambodia to finalise and announce the latest list of places to rub shoulders with places as diverse as the Pyramids of Giza, the Mountain Railways of India and Himeji Castle.

“We are delighted to hear the news. Once Mount Fuji is registered as a World Heritage site, we hope it will be known to more people,” an official was quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency.

We’d say they’ll have a tough job of finding people who haven’t heard of the iconic peak, which straddles Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, though international recognition for the rest of the 70,000 hectare area, including the Five Lakes and Shiraito Falls, will surely be a boost.

Many tourists who visit Tokyo enjoy the view of Mt. Fuji from either the bullet train on the way to Kyoto or even from their hotel rooms in Tokyo, and this should make promotion of the area itself a little easier.

There was bad news for Kamakura – a 2,000-hectare area, including Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Enkaku Temple and the Great Buddha will not be added to the list.

There are strict rules on gaining entry to the exclusive club, on criteria of Natural, Cultural or Mixed, and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (the UNESCO committee that makes the recommendations) said there was not enough evidence of “assets linked specifically to medieval shogunate rule” to recommend the area.

The most recent Japanese site to be registered was the Hiraizumi area, Iwate prefecture, and if Mt. Fuji is confirmed as expected there would be 13 cultural World Heritage sites in the country.

Somewhat surprisingly, Fuji doesn’t join Yakushima (Kyushu), Shiretoko (Hokkaido) and Shirakami-Sanchi (Akita) on the list of Japan’s ‘Natural’ World Heritage Sites, for it was the cultural associations of the ‘extinct‘ volcano that encouraged the committee. The Japanese government had said Mt. Fuji was a “symbol of nature worship in the country and has been depicted in ukiyo-e woodblock prints” in its filing with UNESCO.

There are currently 962 World Heritage Sites in the world, 213 of which are in Asia and Oceania.

Image credit: Akihito Fujii/Flickr (CC)