What are World Natural Heritage Sites?
The “World Heritage Convention,” adopted in 1972 by the UNESCO General Assembly, resulted in the “World Heritage” registration, values that should be shared not only with the present population, but also with the next generation.
World Heritage sites are roughly divided into “Cultural Heritage” and “Natural Heritage,” and a site must fulfill one of the criteria for “natural beauty,” “geography and geology,” “ecosystems,” and “biodiversity” in order to be registered as a natural heritage site.
World Natural Heritage sites are precious and fragile treasures, but is it enough just to look at and protect them from a distance? By doing so they may disappear from people’s memories.
Because they are precious and fragile treasures, it is important to pay attention to the environment while visiting, to experience the value of nature in person, and to convey that experience to people who follow. Now, let’s go on a journey to meet “World Natural Heritage Sites.”
World Natural Heritage Sites in Japan
The first two World Natural Heritage sites in Japan were registered in 1993. They were the remote “Yakushima” island in Kagoshima Prefecture and “Shirokami Sanchi,” a vast, primal beech forest that spans Aomori and Akita Prefectures. The Shiretoko peninsula, which protrudes into the Sea of Okhotsk in the northeastern part of Hokkaido, was registered in 2005, and the Ogasawara Islands, oceanic islands about 1,000 km away from central Tokyo, were registered in 2011. Most recently, the area consisting of Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island were registered in 2021, for a total of five World Natural Heritage sites in Japan. Japan’s natural heritage is a place where all of its rich and unique ecosystems are valued and you can feel the circle of life, including rare plants and animals.