The Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture have been designated as a globally important geological heritage site by a UNESCO-backed program.
The Global Network of National Geoparks made the decision at a meeting Monday in South Korea. The island chain in the Sea of Japan is the nation’s sixth site to be designated as a Global Geopark.
The Oki Islands, administered by the municipality of Okinoshima, comprise four inhabited and some 180 uninhabited islands between 40 km and 80 km off the Shimane Peninsula. Thought to have separated from mainland Japan around 10,000 years ago, the chain is populated by indigenous species such as the Oki salamander and has unique cultural traditions.
The islands were registered as a Japanese Geopark in October 2009. An application to designate the chain as a Global Geopark was made to the Global Network of National Geoparks in December 2011.