Local residents celebrate Mt Fuji's World Heritage status

Residents in towns around Mount Fuji erupted with joy on Saturday after UNESCO granted World Heritage status to Japan's highest and most celebrated moutain.

Known for its perfectly cone-shaped volcano, UNESCO classified the mountain as a "cultural" heritage site saying it has "has inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries".

"Oh, I feel relieved. I am thankful," Shigeru Horiuchi, the mayor of Fuji Yoshida told reporters at his office after receiving a phone call from Phnom Penh where he was informed of the UN body's decision.

The committee spent 50 minutes debating Fuji's status, although the process had been expected to last just 10 minutes, as members took turns in praising the scenic cone-shaped volcano, according to press reports.

"The debate lasted so long that I got tired of waiting," Horiuchi said with a smile.

Fuji Yoshida, a city of 49,500, just north of 3,776-metre (12,460-foot)-high Fuji, used a public address system to announce the UNESCO decision.

"Thank you for the support from all you citizens," an announcer said.

A schoolgirl told public broadcaster NHK: "I am so happy. It's awesome. Fujisan is so big and is beautiful when you look at it from a distance."

"I am glad that Fujisan is something special," a housewife said.

In nearby Fujinomiya, about 500 citizens gathered at the city office to watch the UNESCO proceedings through Internet-relayed images projected on a big screen.

They applauded and congratulated each other when the decision was made.

At the entrance of the city office, a huge ball containing confetti was cracked open. The top of a huge wooden barrel of sake was broken with a hammer as people shared cups of the liquid to celebrate.

"We the Japanese have been inspired and encouraged by the varying beauty of Mount Fuji since ancient times," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement.

"I feel happy from the bottom of my heart that 'our Fujisan' has become 'Fujisan of the world.'"