Terms Related to World Heritage

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)

A specialized agency of the United Nations that was established in 1946 to develop and advance education, science and culture. The headquarters is situated in Paris, France.

World Heritage Convention

The official name is “Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage,” which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972, and came into effect in 1975. Japan ratified the World Heritage Convention in 1992.

Philosophy of the World Heritage Convention

To promote and enhance domestic protective measures and establish an international cooperative framework based on the perspective that it is important to protect cultural and natural heritage sites from such threats as damage and destruction and to preserve them as world legacies for humanity.

World Heritage Committee

An intergovernmental panel that was established within UNESCO based on the World Heritage Convention to protect cultural and natural heritage sites of Outstanding Universal Value. It consists of 21 countries elected from the States Parties to the Convention. The term of office is six years (or four years on a voluntary basis).
The Secretariat (UNESCO World Heritage Centre) is situated in Paris.


The official name is “International Council on Monuments and Sites,” which is an international organization (NGO) that preserves historic monuments and sites in the world, and also serves as an advisory panel to UNESCO concerning the preservation of monuments and sites.
Based on the World Heritage Convention, it conducts field surveys of cultural properties nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List, and also performs monitoring, etc. of inscribed properties to make recommendations on the results to the World Heritage Committee.


The official name is “International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management,” which is one of ICOMOS’s international academic panels that engages in more specialized activities. It does not only deal with World Heritage sites, but also archaeological sites, landscapes and related properties all over the world, and formulates criteria on their effective management.

World Heritage Tentative Lists

A Tentative List is an inventory of properties situated on the territory of each State Party that it considers suitable for inscription on the World Heritage List.
Properties to be inscribed on the World Heritage List are selected from those on the Tentative Lists of States Parties.
The properties on the Tentative List of Japan are here.

Decision of the World Heritage Committee

In light of the recommendations of advisory bodies (ICOMOS, IUCN), the World Heritage Committee reviews nominated properties and makes a decision to adopt any of the following options.

  • Inscription
    Official approval for inscription on the World Heritage List.
  • Referral
    Although the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is proven, additional information on the preservation plans, etc. is required. The property will be reviewed again from the following year on, based on the submitted additional information.
  • Deferral
    The proof of Outstanding Universal Value is considered insufficient, requiring more in-depth assessment, a substantial change to the range of the component parts and essential revision, etc. A field survey will be re-conducted after a revised nomination is submitted.
  • Not to be inscribed
    The property is regarded as unsuitable for inscription. If this option is decided, the nomination cannot be presented to the committee again, in principle.


An area for inscription on the World Heritage List. It is necessary to ensure that the property has Outstanding Universal Value, integrity and authenticity.

Buffer zone

A safety net for the effective protection of the property that is set by regulating the complementary use and development in areas around the property through legal or conventional measures.

Nominated property

Overall property to be nominated for inscription.

Component parts

Elements that compose the overall property to be nominated for inscription.

Preservation and management plans

Management plans that illustrate the way to preserve the Outstanding Universal Value of a nominated property to ensure its effective protection at present and in the future.

It is regarded appropriate to formulate a comprehensive preservation and management plan for the nominated property overall and to set individual detailed and specific plans for the preservation/management, improvement and usage of the component parts and their action plans.

Serial nomination

Nominating several properties for inscription on the World Heritage List as one property of Outstanding Universal Value by connecting them as a group of properties that belong to the same history or culture.

Terms Related to the Jomon Sites

Last glacial period

The most recent Glacial period, which began 70,000 years ago and ended 10,000 years ago. The island of Hokkaido was connected to the Eurasian continent at the time due to low sea levels resulting from reduced temperatures. Rapid cooling occurred approximately 13,000 years ago before the Post-glacial period began. This final part of the era is called the Late Glacial period.

Post-glacial period

A geological epoch dating from 10,000 years ago to the present day. The term Post-glacial is used synonymously with Holocene.

Ice age

A period of long-term reduction in the earth’s temperature, resulting in the growth of polar ice sheets and glaciers. There have been at least four ice ages in the past separated by warmer interglacial periods.

Holocene period

The most recent geological epoch running from 10,000 years ago when the Last Glacial period ended to the present. Forestland thrived due to global warming, resulting in the formation of the Japanese archipelago’s current environment.

Jomon transgression

A sea-level rise seen around the Japanese archipelago during the Jomon period. The level at the warmest time from the last half of the Initial Jomon period to the Early Jomon period was 2 or 3 m higher than today, and current inland areas were submerged.

Marine transgression and regression

A sea-level rise caused by climate change is called a marine transgression, and a sea-level fall caused by climate change is called a marine regression.

Radiocarbon dating

A dating technique based on the characteristic of carbon-14 (14C, a radioactive isotope) whose abundance ratio is constant in living organisms but decreases at a constant rate after their death.


The term ritual in Japanese is generally used in reference to worship of the gods, but also refers to a primitive form of belief involving prayer for prosperity.


A belief that a spirit is inherent in animals, plants and various other things.

Ainu offering ceremony

A ceremony performed by Ainu people to separate the souls of animals from their bodies and send them off to the world of the gods. A typical example is iyomante – a ceremony in which bear cubs are scarified and a banquet is held.

Summer/winter solstice and vernal equinox

A concept for seasonal classification based on the movement of the sun in consideration of the summer and winter solstice and the vernal and autumnal equinox.


A place where people settled consisting of living areas, graveyards, production areas and dumping grounds. Such areas provide information on civil engineering, architecture, livelihoods, the burial system, trading and various other aspects of Jomon life.

Shell midden

An accumulation of discarded shells, food residues and other waste. Human bones, dog remains and bone and antler objects are also unearthed in such places.

Stone circle

A circular stone arrangement measuring 40 to 50 m in diameter related to the burial system and rituals.

Earthwork burial circle

A cemetery from the Late Jomon period located in Hokkaido. The site was constructed by digging a circular pit and piling the excavated soil around it. The largest such cemetery discovered measures 75 m in diameter and 5.4 m in height.

Wetland site

A site formed in a layer containing large amounts of underground water. Seeds, animal/plant remains, woody artifacts and bone and antler objects are often unearthed with their organic parts intact in such places.


Remains of a giant structure built with great effort, such as a stone circle, earthwork burial circle or mound.

Pit grave

An elliptical or circular pit for the burial of human bodies. Graveyards were constructed in certain parts of settlements.

Pit dwelling

A building with a floor at the bottom of a pit and a roof supported by pillars. Pit dwellings were used as houses or factories.

Storage pit

A pit for food storage. The cross section of a typical storage pit is flask-shaped. Nuts are sometimes unearthed at such sites.

Burial pot

A grave with an earthenware coffin for infants. Secondary burial pots for adults were also created in Aomori Prefecture and elsewhere during the Late Jomon period.

Pillar-supported building

A structure with a raised floor supported by pillars erected in a pit or a floor at ground level (not including pit dwellings).

Earthwork mound

A place where large amounts of pottery, stone tools and other items were disposed of along with soil. Earthwork mounds are considered to be related to rituals because many clay figurines have been unearthed there.


A raised area made by heaping up soil.

Bone and antler objects

Tools made of animal bones, antlers, teeth and tusks, including fishing tools (e.g., hooks and harpoons), needles, spatulas and accessories (e.g., hairpins, decorative belts).

Dedicated item

An offering made at ceremonies involving prayers.

Goggle-eyed clay figurine

A clay figurine from the first half of the Kamegaoka culture period with large eyes resembling Inuit snow goggles.

Fine ware

Elaborately made decorative earthenware with a variety of types, including deep bowls, regular bowls and shallow bowls with a pedestal, vases, spouted vessels, carefully ground glazeware, and red-pigmented pottery. The non-decorative simple pottery type is called crude earthenware. Most excavated pieces of this type were deep bowls for daily use.

Mikoshiba-Chojakubo stone tool assemblage

Stone tools associated with the origins of pottery, including partly ground stone axes, large stone spears and gravers.

Page Top