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Press Release

Inscription of "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range" to World Heritage List

July 1, 2004

"Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range" is to be inscribed on the World Heritage List as a new cultural property. The World Heritage Committee at its 28th session held in Suzhou, China decided on July 1, 2004. With the inscription of this property, the total number of Japanese properties on the World Heritage List is 12, 10 cultural properties and 2 natural properties. The formal approval will take place on July 7, the last day of the Committee meeting.

<Feature of "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range">

"Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range" comprises of sacred sites for Shinto based on ancient nature worship in Japan, Buddhism introduced from China and Korean peninsula, and Shugen sect which is combination of Shintoism, Buddhism and Taoism, and pilgrimage routes connecting these sites. It extends over three prefectures of Mie, Nara and Wakayama.

Three main sacred sites and the pilgrimage routes are:
  -    "Yoshino and Omine," center of Shugen sect of ascetic Buddhism, is noted as a primary stage for mountain worship and also ascetic practices for Shugen sect of Shinto from early history and its reputation reached as far as China.
  -    "Kumano Sanzan," center of Kumano worship, is an important place for Shintoism and Shugen sect of Shinto-Buddhism in the mountains, and it had flourished as a center of worship from imperial families and aristocrats since 12th century.
  -    "Koyasan," fundamental practice stage for Shingon sect of Esoteric Buddhism, is a temple stage for the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism founded by Kukai in early 9th Century and its Buddhist architectural style served as the model for Shingon sect temples.
  -    Pilgrimage routes connecting sacred sites developed as religion expanded. To date, those routes are not only preserved in good condition but still are utilized as pilgrimage routes and means of transportation. With primeval forests along the routes, the routes compose unique cultural sceneries.

All sacred sites including forest and a part of pilgrimage route are within the boundary of the Yoshino Kumano National Park and the Koya Ryujin Quasi-National Park where protection measures are taken under the Natural Parks Law. In the area of new cultural property, there are 14 subjects designated as historic sites, scenic spots or natural monuments and 27 architectural structures designated as national treasure or important cultural properties under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties.

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