Japan’s World Natural Heritage Sites Celebrate 30th Anniversary of Recognition: Participants Join Events to Mark Occasion

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People plant beech saplings in a nearby rural forest, from where the Shirakami Sanchi mountainous range can be observed, in Fujisato, Akita Prefecture, on Dec. 10.

Commemorative events have been held to mark the 30th anniversary of two regions being registered as World Natural Heritage Sites, providing people the chance to enjoy the natural beauty of the areas.

The Shirakami Sanchi, a mountainous region straddling Aomori and Akita prefectures, and Yakushima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, were recognized by UNESCO on Dec. 11, 1993.

On the south side of Shirakami Sanch in Fujisato, Akita Prefecture, about 20 people joined a tour on Dec. 10 to view part of the recognized areas from nearby woodland. Participants and guides walked for about 1½ hours, ascending paths in a beech forest and stepping on fallen leaves. Upon reaching the summit, which offered a panoramic view of the heritage site, they planted 20 beech saplings and held a traditional event to express gratitude to the mountain god.

“I felt that we must protect our precious nature,” said Miki Kaita, a 55-year-old part-timer from Akita who participated in the event.

Esami Saito, 74, president of the Akita-Shirakami Guides Association that organized the event, said: “Over the period of 30 years, the number of visitors has been declining. We’d like to think about how we can attract more people.”

On the same day, an event was held in Yakushima, Kagoshima Prefecture, in which people climbed a mountainous path to reach Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine. The area is known for its mysterious scenery of moss and clear water. Organized by an NPO based in Osaka, a group of 15 people from both Japan and abroad took part in the event.

Despite the unseasonably hot weather, participants ascended a 4.8-kilometer course to reach the 634-meter-high summit. Participants traversed the Kusukawa Trail, created during the Edo period to transport logged Yakusugi cedars.

“I had never seen such awe-inspiring nature before. The climb was challenging, but I was deeply impressed [with the magnificent scenery,]” said a 23-year-old university student from Kumamoto who joined the event.

People head to Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine in an event held to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the registration of Yakushima island as a World Natural Heritage site in Yakushima, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Dec. 10.