Men who visit the island must agree to never reveal details of their trip.
Okinoshima, Japan
Credit: Everett Kennedy Brown/EPA/Redux

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is considering adding a Japanese island where women are not allowed to its list of world heritage sites.

Okinoshima is an island in south-western Japan that has banned women on the grounds of religion for centuries. Last week, the International Council on Monuments and Sites announced their recommendation for the island to be included on the list of world heritage sites.

The island is home to the Munakata Taisha Okitsumiya shrine which honors a goddess of the sea. It became the site of rituals for the safety of passing ships. Between the fourth and ninth centuries, the island also acted as an exchange point between the Korean Peninsula and China.

Archeologists have discovered over 80,000 artifacts on the island, including Korean gold rings and glass cups from Persia. The artifacts have all been named national treasures.

But not everyone can see the historic island. In addition to an all-out ban on female visitors, men must strip naked and perform a cleansing ritual before they are allowed on the island. They must also agree to never reveal details of their trip.

However, even if the island is granted UNESCO World Heritage status, the rules on who is allowed at the island will not change. A local official told the Manichi Daily newspaper that they will “continue to strictly regulate visits to the island.”

A final decision regarding the status of the island will be made at a UNESCO meeting in July. If accepted, Okinoshima would become the 17th Japanese landmark with World Heritage status.