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Sacred Japanese island recommended for UNESCO heritage list

Okinoshima (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A UNESCO preliminary review panel has recommended a sacred island in the Sea of Japan and reefs nearby be registered on the world's cultural heritage list, but not four other proposed sites, the government said Friday.

    The listing of the island of Okinoshima, home to Okitsu-Miya Shrine, Fukuoka Prefecture, southwestern Japan, is set to be officially discussed at a meeting in Poland in July of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's Intergovernmental Committee.

    If the Paris-based international body agrees to list the island and three reefs nearby, it will bring the total number of Japanese items on the cultural and natural heritage lists to 21, the government said.

    The shrine was used for prayer rituals during Japan's exchanges with the Asian continent in the fourth to ninth centuries.

    The preliminary review panel recommended that four other sites of cultural heritage proposed by the Japanese government be dropped, saying they do not have sufficient value for the world. Among them are ancient tombs on the northern tip of Kyushu and the Munakata Taisha Shrine pavilions in Fukuoka.

    "We cannot accept" the recommendations by the panel, Keisuke Onishi, an official at the Japanese Cultural Affairs Agency, said at a press conference.

    The Japanese government will need to decide by the meeting in July whether to continue to propose all the sites or focus on the island of Okinoshima and the three reefs.

    In 2013, the Miho-no-Matsubara pine grove was added to the World Heritage List as part of eight heritage properties including Mt. Fuji, even though it had been removed from the review panel's recommendation.

    The island of Okinoshima, midway between Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula, upholds ancient rules restricting entry, including a total ban on women visitors.

    About 80,000 articles unearthed on the island have been designated as national treasures, including a gold ring made on the Korean Peninsula and cut glass from Persia, now Iran.

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