Global Network of National Geoparks

San'in Kaigan (seaside) region seeks to be the first Global Geopark in Japan

Source Published :August 28, 2007

Now, municipalities in three prefectures in the Kansai region - Kyoto , Hyogo and Tottori - that face the Japan Sea are moving to acquire a UNESCO laurel for the San'in Kaigan (seaside) region as the first Global Geopark in Japan. The municipalities involved have inaugurated a joint council to orchestrate promotional campaigns. They are pinning high hopes on the region's designation as a Global Geopark, which they expect to greatly contribute to their revitalization.

Global Geopark designation is a global UNESCO program to convert valuable geological heritage sites into world parks. So far, 52 areas in 17 countries have been given such status, but none in Japan. Global Geopark designation was proposed as a UNESCO program in 1997 and the Global Geopark label was set up in 2004. Since then, various areas in China and European countries including Britain and France have received the label, and various countries of the world have joined the Geopark Network aimed at promoting the exchange of information and coordination of activities for preserving valuable geological and geomorphological sites for future generations and at the same time activating local economies.

High hurdle to Clear

Urged by the Geological Society of Japan and other quarters, moves to make San'in Kaigan a Global Geopark have been growing rapidly, with the private sector in the Tajima region in Hyogo Prefecture inaugurating an association for the purpose. Municipalities in the region followed in its footsteps. At a conference held last November by the chiefs of six municipalities in the northern part of Hyogo Prefecture and the eastern part of neighboring Tottori Prefecture, it was decided to promote a campaign seeking UNESCO designation of the seaside area as a Global Geopark. The campaign picked up further momentum when some 50 representatives from the two prefectures plus Kyoto Prefecture gathered in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture, on July 16 and inaugurated a 'San'in Kaigan Geopark Promotion Council.'

San'in Kaigan is a picturesque area, designated as a national park, stretching 75 km from Kyotango City (Kyoto Prefecture) to the Tottori Sand Hill. Its dynamic coastline, lined with rocky caves (photo showing one, dubbed Seiryudo), fantastically shaped rocks and cliffs, and sand hills, deserve designation as a Global Geopark.

The San'in Kaigan Geopark Promotion Council will conduct a detailed survey of the coastline from land and sea and identify the conditions of rocks and beaches by October, said officials of Shinonsen Town (Hyogo Prefecture), which serves as the secretariat of the council. A symposium aimed at enlightening local citizens on the Global Geopark campaign is scheduled for February or March. The council also plans to issue promotional brochures.

However, a high hurdle stands in the way of the region's designation as the first Global Geopark in Japan. Firstly, under UNESCO rules, a prospective Global Geopark must fulfill the following requirements, among others:

  1.  it has a large number of geological heritage sites and is engaged in activities for preserving them;
  2.  it provides mass education on earth science;
  3.  it pursues sustainable local economic development:
  4.  it has an action program incorporating examples of preservation activities. Furthermore, a good tourism environment is needed.

In addition, the San'in Kaigan area has domestic rivals likewise seeking Global Geopark designation, including the Lake Toya area of Hokkaido and Itoigawa City in Niigata Prefecture. It is not clear at the moment whether San'in Kaigan will win UNESCO designation as a Global Geopark. Even so, local people are going all out to win the coveted label, which local people hope will further promote tourism of the coastal region.