A men-only island in Japan where women are banned has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The male visitors must bathe naked in the sea before visiting the shrine in the island. The tiny island of Okinoshima is permanently manned by a Shinto priest prays to the island’s goddess, a tradition that has been followed for centuries. The island is situated in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and only a limited numbers of people are permitted to land on the island. This year the number has been kept at 200 for an annual festival that lasts just two hours, but the visitors must adhere to strict rules and regulations. Women are prohibited from visiting this Japanese island.

The visitors who are allowed must be men but they must strip naked and take a purifying dip in the ocean before they are allowed to set foot on the sacred ground of the shrine on the island. The inclusion in UNESCO World Heritage list usually results in an increase in numbers of tourists flocking to a place but the shrine officials are now considering banning future travel for anyone apart from priests as they are scared that the island could be destroyed by too many visitors and tourists.

A spokesman cleared the stand on the ban on women and said, “The island has sometimes been said to ban women, but in principle anyone but the priests who pray there for 365 days a year is barred from entering.” The ban on female visitors specifically “has nothing to do with discrimination against women,” the official told AFP by phone. He said that it is considered dangerous for women to travel by sea to get to the island and the shrine will not change the centuries-old rule. “It is meant to protect women, the birth-giving gender,” he added. Horrifying Video Shows Helicopter Crash That Killed Bride And Her Brother On The Way To The Wedding In Brazil (Watch)

The island is located off the northwest coast of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands. It was an important window for foreign trade in Japan since ancient times and formed a part of a trade route that linked the Japanese islands to the Korean peninsula and China. Many valuable items such as thousands of gold rings have been found here. The website of Munakata Taisha, the shrine which owns Okinoshima reads, “These treasures are believed to have been offered to the gods in order to pray for national prosperity and the safety of marine traffic.” UNESCO’s heritage committee considered 33 other sites for the prestigious status at its annual gathering in Poland. The list includes treasures such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Taj Mahal in India, and the rock-carved city of Petra in modern-day Jordan.