Mount Fuji ‘Set for UNESCO Listing’

WORLD

Mount Fuji ‘Set for UNESCO Listing’
Japan’s near-symmetrical snow-topped volcano, Mount Fuji, looks likely to become the newest UNESCO World Heritage site, officials say.

Mount Fuji, just a short drive from the Tokyo metropolis, is a physical, cultural, and spiritual symbol of Japan. Photograph by Khor Ai Sang

Mount Fuji, just a short drive from the Tokyo metropolis, is a physical, cultural, and spiritual symbol of Japan.
Photograph by Khor Ai Sang

Discussion Ideas:

  • A UNESCO World Heritage Site is one recognized as being “of outstanding universal value” and meeting one of 10 criteria. Read the short list of criteria, then read our short “media spotlight” on Mount Fuji. Do students think Mount Fuji meets at least one of the required criteria? Which one(s)? How?
    • “The mountain,” the spotlight says, “contributes to Japan’s physical, cultural, and spiritual geography.” It meets several criteria!
      • 3. to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared. Mount Fuji is a testament to historic and contemporary Japanese culture.
      • 6. to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. The ascent of Mount Fuji, one of the country’s most popular activities for both Japanese and foreign tourists, is associated with the living tradition of Shinto, Japan’s indigenous religion. Mount Fuji is also the most represented landscape in Japanese art, from wood-block masterpieces to postage stamps to elaborate kimono.
      • 7. to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance. Mount Fuji is one of the most isolated, symmetrical, and serene stratovolcanoes in the world.
      • 8. to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features. Although Mount Fuji has not erupted in more than 300 years, it is an active volcano, sitting on a “triple junction” of tectonic activity—the Amurian plate (associated with the Eurasian tectonic plate), the Okhotsk plate (associated with the North American plate) and the Filipino plate.
      • 10. to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation. The national park surrounding Mount Fuji is home to several threatened or endangered species, including butterflies and a species of salmon thought extinct until 2010.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites are classified as having either cultural significance, natural significance, or mixed significance. What classification do students think Mount Fuji has?
    • Definitely mixed!
  • Look at our “media spotlight” featuring satellite images of eight of UNESCO’s 962 World Heritage Sites. How would students classify each of the eight sites? What criteria do they think each of the sites meet?
  • Look at UNESCO’s map and list of its World Heritage Sites. (Note: The map is missing one piece of its legend! The red diamonds represent UNESCO sites that are in danger of destruction by human or natural forces.) Can students identify what countries have the most sites recognized by UNESCO? Why do they think these countries have the most World Heritage Sites?
    • Italy, Spain, and China have the most World Heritage Sites. These nations all have a long history of recorded civilization, with intact cultural sites dating back more than a thousand years. Italy, Spain, and China are also active members of the United Nations whose diplomats consistently pursue recognition of their cultural and natural treasures. Other nations may not have the sophisticated infrastructure necessary to apply to UNESCO for such recognition.
  • Can students identify some local “heritage sites”—places that have significant value to different groups in their community? Do these places have cultural or natural significance? Using the UNESCO map as a guide, can students create a local map pinpointing different “heritage sites” of cultural, natural, or mixed significance?

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