PHNOM PENH - The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO decided Saturday to inscribe Mount Fuji on the U.N. agency’s prestigious World Heritage list.
The 3,776-meter volcano straddling Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures was approved by the 21-member panel of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization during its 37th session in Cambodia’s capital.
Japan’s highest and most celebrated peak was designated a “cultural” rather than “natural” site and registered under the title “Mt. Fuji: Object of Worship, Wellspring of Art.”
It is Japan’s 17th site to make the list and the first since the historic Hiraizumi area in Iwate Prefecture and the Ogasawara Islands in the Pacific won approval in 2011.
Japan asked UNESCO to register Mount Fuji in January 2012 because it has been viewed as a religious site, depicted in ukiyo-e paintings and helped nurture Japan’s unique culture.
Fuji spans roughly 70,000 hectares, including Sengen Shrine at its foot, five major lakes, the Shiraito Falls and the Miho-no-Matsubara pine grove.
In a speech at the session following the inscription, Isao Kiso, a delegate to UNESCO, expressed appreciation for the registration on behalf of the Japanese government, saying he was delighted that the “outstanding universal value of this sacred and beautiful cultural property has been recognized and acknowledged by the World Heritage Committee.”
Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu, who also attended, said the inscription “is not the end but only the beginning.”
He said the people of Japan “shall proudly safeguard and pass the legacy of Fuji-san on to future generations.”
Yamanashi Gov. Shomei Yokouchi said it is “a great pleasure” for the people of Japan to hear of Mount Fuji’s inscription.
Chuch Phoeun, secretary of state of the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said Mount Fuji “has outstanding universal value and deserves to be listed as such.”
The International Council on Monuments and Sites, the UNESCO panel dubbed ICOMOS, recommended in April that Mount Fuji be listed but without the pine grove, which is a distant 45 km away.
On Saturday, however, the panel had a change of heart.
Residents and officials had earlier attempted to register Mount Fuji as a natural World Heritage site but were thwarted by the illegal dumping of garbage and the fact that the peak lacks global uniqueness as a volcanic mountain.
It was dropped from consideration in 2003.
In 2012, Japan formally asked UNESCO to add Mount Fuji to the list of cultural World Heritage sites in consideration of its religious significance and repeated depictions in works of art.
ICOMOS then recommended Mount Fuji for registration in April, noting that it is a national symbol of Japan, blends religious and artistic traditions, and has an influence that “clearly goes beyond Japan.”