Features of the Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark
Uncover the Mysteries of the Land!
Geoparks are places that show us the connections between the geology of the land we live in (formed by plate tectonics and volcanic activity), the ecosystems of that land, and the culture of the people who have lived and continue to live there. To put it a little differently, they are places that show us how the Earth is put together.
The Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark isn’t just a place where you can see precious geological heritage. It is a place that tells the story of the land, connecting the “Geohistory” of the islands created over millions of years, the “Unique Ecosystem” that developed on this land, and the diverse “Lifestyles and Traditions” of the people that have been passed down until today. In the geopark there are many sites where you can learn about these three themes. Come discover the story at each of these sites!
Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark
The Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark area (indicated by the boundary line in the map below) encompasses four inhabited and many uninhabited islands located in the Sea of Japan 40-80 km north of Shimane Peninsula (southwest of mainland Honshu). As isolated islands, marine life and the fisheries industry are of central importance to the way of life of the people. In consideration of this, aside from land area, the geopark also includes 1 km of marine area from the coastline. The geopark has a total area of 673.5 km² (land area 346.0 km² and marine area 327.5 km²).
The land of the Oki Islands has developed through a series of stages: from being a part of the Eurasian continent, the land sunk to the bottom of a lake on the continent, and then the bottom of a deep sea as the Sea of Japan was formed. This land then surfaced due to volcanic eruptions, and the islands were born. They later became connected to mainland Japan during the glacial periods, to eventually become the remote islands they are today. This geohistory has given birth to the unique ecosystem and cultural traditions of the Oki Islands.
The islands did not become isolated by breaking off from the mainland of Japan. Rather, changes in sea level throughout history caused them to become alternately connected to the mainland and isolated islands several times throughout history.
During the last glacial period 20,000 years ago, the sea level declined to 130 m below where it is today. Since the sea between the islands and the mainland is only 70 m deep, the islands became connected to the mainland Shimane Peninsula. Post-glacial warming caused the sea level to rise again 10,000 years ago, and the islands once again became isolated as they are today.
What is a Geopark?
An official program of UNESCO, UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified areas with internationally significant geological heritage and landscapes. They are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education, and sustainable development.
The Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark is a place where you can discover the connections between the “Geohistory,” “Unique Ecosystem,” and “Lifestyles and Traditions,” as well as a place that conducts environmental conservation activities, educational activities, and exciting events for the local area.
A nonprofit organization to facilitate networking and support geoparks and aspiring geoparks in Japan. As of April 2020, there are a total of 57 areas participating in the network, including 14 aspiring geoparks and 43 Japanese geoparks, 9 of which are also designated as UNESCO Global Geoparks.
UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGp)
An official program of UNESCO. As of July 2020, there are 161 areas in 44 countries around the world that have been designated as UNESCO Global Geoparks.