Vis­i­tor ban on Ja­pan’s new UN­ESCO is­land

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

TOKYO — Vis­i­tors will not be al­lowed to set foot on a men-only UN­ESCO World Her­itage is­land in Ja­pan from next year, an of­fi­cial said on Satur­day.

The tiny land­mass of Oki­noshima, where women are banned and male vis­i­tors must bathe naked in the sea be­fore vis­it­ing its shrine, was de­clared a World Her­itage site last week.

Lim­ited num­bers are cur­rently per­mit­ted to land on the is­land — this year it was 200 — for a yearly fes­ti­val that lasts just two hours, but they must ad­here to strict rules.

But Mu­nakata Taisha, the shrine which owns Oki­noshima, has de­cided to ban travel for any­one apart from priests from next year to pro­tect the is­land from be­ing dam­aged, a spokesman said.

“A strict preser­va­tion is re­quired now that the is­land has got the UN­ESCO list­ing,” he said.

“It will be risky if 200 vis­i­tors con­tinue to come to the is­land,” he said, adding that Oki­noshima is “the is­land pro­tected by Shinto priests”.

The is­land is per­ma­nently manned by a Shinto priest who prays to the is­land’s god­dess, in a tra­di­tion that has been kept up for cen­turies.

How­ever, aca­demics will be al­lowed to land on the is­land for re­search and preser­va­tion pur­poses, he added.

The is­land, which sits off the north­west coast of Kyushu, the south­ern­most of Ja­pan’s four main is­lands, was an im­por­tant win­dow for for­eign trade in Ja­pan since an­cient times, form­ing part of a route that linked the archipelago to the Korean Penin­sula and China.

PRO­VIDED BY AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS

The Ok­it­sugu shrine on Oki­noshima is­land, which was given UN­ESCO World Her­itage sta­tus last week.

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