Island That Bans Women on Verge of World Heritage Status

Okinoshima in southwestern Japan is considered too sacred for women to visit
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2017 8:01 PM CDT
Island That Bans Women on Verge of World Heritage Status
Small shrine arches or "Torii" gates stand on the shore and out into the sea in southwestern Japan on Friday, May 5, 2017.   (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

For centuries, a remote island in southwestern Japan has been deemed too sacred for women to visit, and even the men who do must strip naked for a ritual cleansing, as well as never discuss the details of their trip. Okinoshima, an ancient religious site that is home to the Munakata Taisha Okitsumiya shrine—which somewhat ironically honors a sea goddess—is being recommended by a UNESCO advisory board to be added to the exclusive World Heritage list, reports the Japan Times. If it goes through, it would be Japan's 17th cultural asset granted World Heritage status.

The recommendation is expected to be endorsed at a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in July, and the ban on women isn't looking like it's going to be lifted anytime soon. "We'll continue to strictly regulate visits to the island," one officials tells the Mainichi Daily. How tourism will be handled remains to be seen, but the BBC notes that there is a strict ban on souvenirs; you currently can't get so much as a blade of grass off the island. (The "Garden of Eden" in Iraq was added last year.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.