Meeting on holy mountains starts in Wakayama

WAKAYAMA, Japan - Representatives from 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region on Wednesday opened a six-day conference on holy mountains to determine the cultural value of mountains considered objects of faith and religious places as U.N. World Heritage sites.

The conference at a Wakayama hotel is being hosted by the Wakayama prefectural government as part of its efforts to put Mt. Koya and shrines in the Kumano region on the World Heritage List.

A three-day inspection of Mt. Koya and the Kumano region, which together straddle Wakayama, Nara and Mie prefectures in western Japan, is also scheduled during the parley.

Some 20 participants from 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including China and Australia, are joining their local counterparts in the meeting co-sponsored by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In his opening address, Masamine Sasaki, director general of the Cultural Affairs Agency, expressed his hope that participants will find ways to protect and preserve prospective World Heritage sites.

AP-NY-09-04-01 2355EDT

Copyright 2001 The Kyodo News Service.