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UNESCO panel recommends adding Japan's Mozu-Furuichi tombs to World Heritage List

Kyodo, JIJI

A UNESCO advisory panel has recommended adding two ancient tumulus clusters in western Japan, including the country’s largest keyhole-shaped mound, to the World Cultural Heritage list, a government official said Tuesday.

Among the sites is the mausoleum of Emperor Nintoku in Osaka Prefecture, officially called Daisen Kofun. It is one of the three largest mounded tombs in the world, together with the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in China and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

The world heritage listing for the sites, collectively called the Mozu-Furuichi tumulus clusters, is expected to be officially approved at a meeting in Azerbaijan from June 30 to July 10 of the World Heritage Committee of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Local authorities first proposed the tomb clusters as a World Cultural Heritage site candidate to the Cultural Affairs Agency in September 2007. The government submitted a letter of recommendation to UNESCO to seek their listing in January last year.

The tumulus clusters would be the 19th Japanese cultural property on the World Heritage list, following the inscription last year of a set of Christian sites in Kumamoto and Nagasaki prefectures.

If registered, the total number of world heritage sites in Japan will increase to 23, including 19 cultural and four natural sites.

Mariko Kobayashi, head of the Cultural Resources Utilization Division at the Cultural Affairs Agency, told a news conference early Tuesday that the historical value of the tumulus clusters and their preservation status have been highly recognized. “It’s good that all of those have been acknowledged,” she said.

Japan’s government has sought the listing of 49 tombs built between the fourth and the fifth centuries, which vary in size and shape.

Emperor Nintoku’s mausoleum, which is part of the Mozu cluster in the city of Sakai, has a keyhole-shaped mound at its center, which is 486 meters in length. Its total length, including the surrounding moat and ramparts, is 840 meters.

Some academics have expressed doubt the tomb may have actually been the grave of Emperor Nintoku, but the site continues to be managed by the Imperial Household Agency as one of a number of imperial mausoleums in the country.

Approximately 10 kilometers to the east of the Mozu cluster is the Furuichi cluster, which includes the Emperor Ojin mausoleum — the second largest in Japan, at a length of 425 meters.