Mt. Fuji to become World Heritage site

Japan's iconic Mt. Fuji has been recommended for registration as a World Heritage site by an advisory panel to UNESCO, the government said Tuesday.

The highest mountain in Japan is expected to be formally listed in June when the World Heritage Committee of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization meets in Cambodia.

But the advisory panel, known as the International Council on Monuments and Sites, or ICOMOS, rejected a request from the Japanese government to add a group of cultural assets in the ancient city of Kamakura to the World Heritage list.

In its request for registration, Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs said Mt. Fuji covers roughly 70,000 hectares in Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, including five major lakes and the Shiraito Falls.

The mountain, traditionally seen as a religious site, has been depicted in "ukiyoe" woodblock prints and nurtured Japan's unique culture, the agency said.

For the 3,776-meter mountain to be listed, however, ICOMOS said the Miho-no-Matsubara pine grove, which Japan had sought to include as part of the asset, must be excluded.

If formally approved, Mt. Fuji will be Japan's first registered World Heritage site since the historic Hiraizumi area in Iwate Prefecture was listed in 2011.

It would bring the total number of Japanese cultural World heritage sites to 13.

The Japanese government officially asked UNESCO in January last year to register the two sites in 2013.

In December of 2012, ICOMOS requested additional information from the government.

The request for Kamakura covered a roughly 2,000-hectare area including the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, the Enkaku Temple and the Great Buddha.

Kamakura, located southwest of Tokyo, was the seat of a samurai government from the late 12th to 14th centuries that nurtured Japanese culture including the tea ceremony and Zen rituals.

Registration on the World Heritage list is aimed at preserving precious cultural assets and natural treasures for future generations but is also significant in boosting tourism.