Japan plans to ban visitors to men-only UNESCO island by '18

A Shinto priest holds a ritual ceremony at Okitsugu shrine of  the Munakata Taisha in Okinoshima island. Pic/AFP
A Shinto priest holds a ritual ceremony at Okitsugu shrine of  the Munakata Taisha in Okinoshima island. Pic/AFP

Visitors will not be allowed to set foot on a men-only UNESCO World Heritage island in Japan from next year, an official said yesterday.

The tiny landmass of Okinoshima, where women are banned and male visitors must bathe naked in the sea before visiting its shrine, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site last week. Limited numbers are currently permitted to land on the island in the Sea of Japan for a yearly festival that lasts just two hours, but they must adhere to strict rules.

But, Munakata Taisha, the shrine which owns Okinoshima, has decided to ban travel for anyone apart from priests from next year to protect the island from being damaged, a spokesman said.

"A strict preservation is required now that the island has got the UNESCO listing," he said adding that Okinoshima is "the island protected by Shinto priests".

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