homeSacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

The Kii Mountain Range has been considered to be a special place where gods dwell since the times of ancient Japanese mythology. Buddhism, which came from China to Japan, also gave special importance to this region, likening the deeply forested mountains of the Kii Mountain Range to the Pure Lands of Amida or Kannon and rendering this region as a stage for the practice of ascetic Buddhism to attain Buddhas' powers. As a result, the Kii Mountain Range came to contain three sacred sites of different origins and characteristics, i.e. "Kumano Sanzan", "Koyasan", and "Yoshino and Omine" as well as the pilgrimage routes leading to them, and has been attracting many people from the capital and other places around Japan. It has long been exerting significant influence upon the development and interchange of religions and cultures of Japan.
The World Heritage site, "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range", consists of sacred sites and pilgrimage routes that are inseparable from the nature of the Kii Mountain Range covering three prefectures of Mie, Nara, and Wakayama as well as the cultural landscapes surrounding them. There is no such property elsewhere in Japan and no similar property to be found elsewhere around the world; this area thus exhibits high value of a unique character.

World Heritage Sites are inscribed on the World Heritage List based upon the World Heritage Convention*. The objective of the Convention is to protect and conserve the monuments, sites, and buildings of high cultural value as well as precious natural environments and to transmit them as the world heritage of mankind as a whole to future generations.
It is the duty of each States Party to the World Heritage Convention to protect and conserve the World Heritage Sites in its territory, to cooperate for the protection of World Heritage Sites in other countries and to endeavor by all appropriate means, and in particular by educational and information programmes, to strengthen appreciation and respect by their peoples of the World Heritage.

* The Convention was adopted in 1972 by the 17th General Conference of UNESCO and has been in effect since 1975. The unabridged name of the Convention is "the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage". At present, 176 countries have become States Parties to the Convention, including Japan, which accepted the Convention in 1992.

"Cultural landscape" is "landscape manifesting the interaction between humankind and its natural environment over a long period of time". There are "mountains" which have been worshipped as the obJect of prayer as well as "forests", "rice terraces" "vineyards", "gardens", and "parks" on the World Heritage List. Mountains and trees can be considered as "cultural landscapes" when they assume special value as "sacred mountains" or "sacred trees".
The World Heritage site, "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range, and the Cultural Landscapes that Surround Them", is not simply a group of shrines, temples and roads, but is nothing less than "sacred sites of mountain worship and routes of mountain practices of religious ascetic Buddhism", which would not exist if it were not for the nature of the Kii Mountain Range. In order to safeguard the "cultural landscape" of these sacred sites and pilgrimage routes, it is not enough to preserve only the shrines and temples that are designated as Cultural Properties; it is also necessary to maintain the surrounding nature in a good condition of preservation and to conserve the "cultural landscape", which has been inherited and nurtured from generation to generation, as part of our proud heritage to be presented to the world.

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