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UNESCO Global Geopark Revalidation Mission: Part 1

On July 4-8, the Mt. Apoi Geopark underwent a UNESCO revalidation mission. UNESCO Global Geoparks are subject to an evaluation every four years to ensure the quality and functionality of the Geopark.

July 4: Day 1

On the first day of the revalidation, the two evaluators, Mr. Jing Zhixing and Dr. Han Jingfan, and Professor Nakada of the Japan Geopark Committee arrived in Samani Town.

The Opening Meeting was held upon arrival their arrival. Here the evaluators were welcomed by officers of the Mt. Apoi Geopark Promotion Council and local residents.

After the Opening Meeting, a welcome dinner was held at Hotel Apoi Sanso during which presentations on joint activities between Hotel Apoi Sanso and the Geopark, such as the stargazing lectures and the Hokkaido Mokka Butter Sandwiches.

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July 5: Day 2

From the second day, the evaluators were taken around the Geopark, tour-style, to introduce the activities of the Mt. Apoi Geopark. The evaluators started the day at the Samani Junior High School where they heard a presentation about the "Hometown Apoi Studies" educational program. Next, they observed a class where the students were preparing for an overnight research trip to Shikaoi Geopark in Hokkaido.

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The rest of the morning we included visits to Cape Enrumu, the Samani Folk Museum, and the Okada Cise. At Okada Cisse, after a welcome speech by Mr. Kikuchi, Vice President of the Ainu Association of Samani, we toured the interior of the cise and learned about the culture and history of the Ainu people. The lunch consisted of delicious dishes such as inakibi rice, grilled fish, a dish of mixed kabocha pumpkin, corn, Amur cork tree berries called Rataskep, a cold soup made from dried cod, seaweed, and long onion called Yamaw.

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After a delicious lunch, we went to Tojuin Temple. Here we learned about the cultural and historical importance of this temple, one of the three official temples of Ezo, which was built here partly because of its geographical location. We also enjoyed a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in the main hall.

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Next, we headed to the Yamanaka Ooma, the newly established Geopark site that highlights the former plate boundary that created the Hidaka mountains and Mt. Apoi. The evaluators heard from the three individuals who helped conduct a scientific survey of the area. The evaluators were very impressed by the importance of this site. After everyone completed a "plate jump" across the plate boundary, we headed to the Mt. Apoi Geopark Visitor Center to review the origins, nature, culture, and other exhibits of Mt. Apoi Geopark.

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At the end of the day, an exchange dinner was held with the evaluators, the Mt. Apoi Geopark Guide Association, and the Samani Indigenous Culture Preservation Society. During the dinner, an ancient Ainu dance performance, which was designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009, was performed, and many attendees participated in and enjoyed the final ring dance. A picture-story show, "The Story of a Grain of Sand," was also presented on the origins of the topography of Samani, and a skit by the Mt. Apoi Geopark Guide Association and the Mt. Apoi Fan Club showed the nature conservation activities of Mt. Apoi in a comedic manner.

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