Japan's Jomon Era sites set to be added to World Heritage list

File photo taken in July 2018 shows the Sannai Maruyama archeological site in Aomori. (Kyodo)

A UNESCO advisory panel recommended Wednesday that the Jomon Era archeological sites in northern Japan be added to the World Cultural Heritage list, the Cultural Affairs Agency said.

The area comprises 17 ancient sites across the northern main island of Hokkaido and northeastern prefectures of Aomori, Iwate and Akita that reflect a hunter-gatherer society that prevailed in Japan for more than 10,000 years.

If registered during an online World Heritage Committee session between July 16 and 31, the locations will be Japan’s 20th World Cultural Heritage listing and its first prehistoric site to get the recognition.

Among the ruins, the Sannai Maruyama village in Aomori, which dates back around 5,900 years, features a large settlement with the remains of large buildings and roads arranged systematically. The Oyu Kanjo Resseki site in Akita, meanwhile, consists of a pair of large stone circles.

The Japanese government recommended the archeological sites to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2020, saying they represent an era that is believed to have begun 16,000 years ago with settlements based on hunting, fishing and plant gathering on the back of abundant food resources.

Local groups that had worked to raise awareness and preserve these Jomon Era sites were thrilled by the news, calling it their regions’ pride.

“As I think that the sites will be finally listed, I find it extremely impressive. Being listed is not our end goal. It’s only the start. We want to cooperate with the other regions with these ancient remains, to share the Jomon Era’s appeal,” said Fumitaka Sato, 48, who is the head of the secretariat of an NGO raising public interest in the Sannai Maruyama village. Sato has been working on getting UNESCO recognition for around 25 years.

“It’s a result that we had been waiting for a long time,” said Masahiko Hananoki, 53, the director of a museum on the Oyu Kanjo Resseki site.

“I believe that if (the site) is registered, there will be more visitors. I would like that to help revitalize our region,” he added.

“We have finally arrived at this point after working for a long time. I want to share my happiness with our supporters once the recommendation becomes finalized,” said Kazunori Takada, 71, who is the director of a museum of the Goshono ruins in Iwate.

Earlier this month, the UNESCO advisory panel recommended a chain of islands in southwestern Japan with dense subtropical forests to be added to the list of natural World Heritage sites.


Sannai Maruyama archeological site in Aomori