An island in Japan, which bans women and makes male visitors strip before going on shore, has been declared a Unesco world heritage site. Okinoshima island is an “exceptional example of the tradition of worship of a sacred island”.

The island is 60 km from a city called Munakata, and the traditions it follows date back to the 4th century. It also houses sacred shrines from the Shinto religion, dating back to the 17th century.

“The archaeological sites that have been preserved on the island are virtually intact, and provide a chronological record of how the rituals performed there changed from the 4th to the 9th century,” said Unesco.

Nobody knows exactly why women are banned — some experts say that the Shinto religion believes that menstrual blood defiles sacred sites, or that the ban was put in place to protect pregnant women from sea travel.

There are over 80,000 precious items that Okinoshima has collected over the last few centuries, and these items are considered a national treasure.

The island allows only male priests, except for its annual festival on May 27, where 200 male visitors are allowed.

“We wouldn’t open Okinoshima to the public even if it is inscribed on the UNESCO cultural heritage list because people shouldn’t visit out of curiosity,” says chief priest Munakata Taisha Shrine. 

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