Male only island given natural heritage status

Trevor Jackson
July 12, 2017

No information about Okinoshima can be found in documents from before Japan's Edo period (1603-1868), even though there is evidence of grand rituals being performed on the island to pray for sea voyages dating as far back as the 4th century. The island is located midway between the south-western main island of Kyushu and the Korean peninsula.

The tiny landmass of Okinoshima is permanently manned by a Shinto priest who prays to the island's goddess, in a tradition that has been kept up for centuries.

Since then approximately 80,000 artefacts brought as gifts from overseas have been discovered on the island, including glass cup fragments believed to be from Persia and gold rings from the Korean Peninsula, the Japan Times has reported.

Until such doubts are put to rest, the official website of The Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region states, "Okinoshima is situated on private land owned by Munakata Taisha, and it is a criminal offence to visit the island without permission from the shrine".

First of all, no women are allowed.

Another theory is that traveling to the island by boat used to be extremely unsafe and so women were forbidden from going as a protection offering. Additionally, visitors are prohibited from speaking about what they witness inside.

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It is the priests who enforce the ban on women, although there isn't much known about why the ban exists.

The ban on female visitors specifically "has nothing to do with discrimination against women", the official told AFP by phone. Other accounts said women were not allowed to participate in maritime travel because it was considered risky and the men wanted to ensure the safety of child-bearers. Not only that, women are perceived to be permanently impure due to the fact that they menstruate.

The 700-square-metre island, along with three nearby reefs and four other related sites were given world heritage status at the United Nations body's annual summit in Krakow, Poland, on Sunday, bringing the number of Japanese cultural and natural sites on the list to 21.

The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage ("the World Heritage Convention"), adopted at the 1972 General Conference of UNESCO, called for a list to be created of natural and cultural sites of "outstanding universal value".

The island is considered sacred by the local Munakata Taisha and consists of a single employee of the shrine.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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