POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 05, 2013
TOKYO » Japan's iconic Mount Fuji looks likely to win recognition as a World Heritage site.
The Agency for Cultural Affairs issued a notice Wednesday saying Mount Fuji was recommended for World Heritage status by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, a body affiliated with UNESCO.
Formal approval is expected in June at a World Heritage Committee meeting in Cambodia.
A collection of cultural sites in Kamakura, a scenic town near Tokyo that once was the nation's capital, were not recommended.
Mount Fuji would be Japan's 13th cultural World Heritage site.
The 12,388-foot volcanic peak is ringed by lakes, national parks, temples and shrines. It rises from the Pacific coast and is seen as a sacred part of Japan's cultural landscape both in Buddhist and indigenous Shinto traditions.
About 300,000 people follow religious pilgrims of centuries past in climbing Mount Fuji each year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization, most of them crowding into a brief summer climbing season.
Local officials already are pondering how to improve traffic access and other facilities to accommodate an anticipated increase in visitors, while preserving the area's natural beauty.
"It's crucial that we preserve all the vantage points from which we can view Mount Fuji," Shoji Watai, an expert on a cultural preservation panel of Fujinomiya city, one of several towns near the mountain.
The news pushed shares in Fuji Kyuko Co., a railway that serves the area, up 16 percent to their highest level since 1991.