Japan pushes Shimane’s Oki in ‘geopark’ bid

Kyodo

The Japan Geopark Committee has decided to ask the Global Geoparks Network, a UNESCO program, to designate Shimane Prefecture’s Oki area as a global “geopark,” committee Chairman Kazuo Oike said.

“Oki is qualified to become a first-grade geopark because it has an amazing landscape and unique vegetation,” Oike, a seismologist and former Kyoto University president, said Monday.

“Our committee would like to help Oki to enhance its preparedness as it has some inadequacies such as insufficient services for tourists,” Oike added.

The network, under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, earlier designated four locations in Japan as geoparks, sites particularly important because of their geological features. The four locations included Saiin Kaigan National Park stretching along the Sea of Japan coast through Kyoto, Hyogo and Tottori prefectures.

The body is now examining the Japanese committee’s request made last September for the Muroto area in Kochi Prefecture to be designated as a global geopark.

A total of 77 areas in 25 countries have been designated by the body as geological assets of high value to the international community.

To be designated as a global geopark under the UNESCO program, an area must possess geographical and geological assets in addition to cultural assets tied to the local community.

An area must also offer tourism services.

In a related development, the Japan Geopark Committee on Monday added six areas, including Mount Bandai in Fukushima Prefecture, to its list of Japanese geoparks, increasing the number of locations designated in Japan to 20.

The five other areas are the northern part of Ibaraki Prefecture, the Oga Peninsula and Ogata area in Akita Prefecture, Shimonita in Gunma Prefecture, the Chichibu area in Saitama Prefecture and Hakusan-Tedorigawa in Ishikawa Prefecture.