The government's decision in late July to nominate a group of 49 ancient burial sites in southern Osaka Prefecture for UNESCO World Heritage status has raised local hopes for a major boost in international prestige and tourism appeal.

But the move also raises sometimes politically sensitive questions about what the sites, called kofun, really are, who are buried within, and how to explain their history and meaning.

The nominated sites are known as the Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group. They lie in two areas, in the city of Sakai just south of the city of Osaka along the coast of Osaka Bay, and in Fujiidera and Habikino in the southeast part of the prefecture. They include the 486-meter Nintoku-tenno-ryo (Nintoku Mausoleum) kofun, one of the world's largest burial mounds.