Japan has 28 national parks, and many quasi-national parks, prefectural natural parks and prefectural wildlife protection areas. About six percent of the hotspot (21,918 km²), falls within protected areas classified in IUCN categories I to IV. However, when other forms of legally protected areas are included, this number rises to about 17 percent of the hotspot. Japan also has two Natural World Heritage Sites, Shirakami-sanchi in northern Honshu, and Yaku-shima in the Satsunan-shoto, which contains ancient Japanese cedar trees.
The main gap in the protected area system is in the Ryukyus, where most forested areas are not properly protected. For example, Yanbaru, which is home to important populations of six of the 32 Critically Endangered and Endangered species in Japan, including the entire global populations of Okinawa rail and Okinawa woodpecker, is unprotected. While a quarter of the forest is in the U.S. Marine Corps Training Area, the rest is threatened by clear-cutting and removal of forest undergrowth.
Concern for the environment is widespread in Japan. The Cosmos Prize, one of the world's top environmental awards, was established by the Expo'90 Committee to honor those who have promoted the harmonious coexistence of nature and humankind. The prize has focused public attention on the need for conservation. Japan has also become a significant player in international biodiversity conservation. For example, the Japanese Government is one of five partners in the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (along with the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, the MacArthur Foundation and Conservation International), which is providing $125 million over five years for conservation in the hotspots.