Top 14 UNESCO Sites In Japan

Top 10 UNESCO Sites In Japan

UNESCO is one of the most prominent agencies of the United Nations, intended to promote the growth and preservation of the cultural and intellectual property of the world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is perhaps best known for designating the World Heritage Sites, which are places of “outstanding universal value”. At present, Japan has 22 World Heritage Sites. Out of them, four are natural ones and there are 18 cultural sites. Here are the top 14 UNESCO Sites in Japan that you should definitely visit, at least once in your lifetime.

1. The Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto, November 2016 -01
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Martin Falbisoner used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Kyoto was built in 794 A.D., on the lines of the capitals of medieval China. The city was the capital of Japan until the 19th century. It has been the major hub of Japanese culture for over 1,000 years and illustrates the progress of Japanese wooden architecture, in general, and the art of gardens and the religious architecture of Japan, in particular. In fact, the art of Japanese gardening in Kyoto has had an impact on global landscape gardening.

Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto

Address: Kansai region, Honshu, Japan

Website: Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto

2. The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama

Ogi Shirakawa-gō, Gifu, Japan
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user 663highland used under CC BY 2.5

The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama are located in a hilly area, which were actually cut off and isolated from the rest of the country for many years. These historic villages feature Gassho-style houses, which supported themselves on the rearing of silkworms from the mulberry trees. These spacious houses sport pitched thatched roofs and are unique in Japan. The villages of Suganuma, Ainokura, and Ogimachi are excellent examples of the traditional ways of Japanese life in sync with the economic and social circumstances.

Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama

Address: Shirakawa, Ono District, Gifu Prefecture 501-5600, Japan

Website: Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama

3. Shrines and Temples of Nikko

Nikko toshogu shrine
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Koichi Sato used under CC BY-SA 4.0

If you are looking forward to spending some soothing and relaxing time in the lap of nature, look no further. A tour to the Shrines and Temples of Nikko is definitely a great choice for you in that case. The temples enjoy a quaint location on the mountains of Honshu Island. You will simply love the mesmerizing mountainous background, amazing hot springs, and scintillating waterfalls. There are two Shinto shrines at Nikko and they have been considered a holy site for ages. The well-preserved architectural works here place the temples at Nikko on the list of World Heritage Sites since 1999.

Shrines and Temples of Nikko

Address: Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture, Kantō region, Japan

Website: Shrines and Temples of Nikko

4. Mount Fuji

Source: Unsplash

Mount Fuji, one of the prominent World Heritage Sites of Japan, is the symbol of the country. It has been a spiritual location for the people of Japan since ancient times. This famous dormant volcano is a symbol of pride in Japan and is known for its serenity and symmetry. It is situated between Shizuoka and Yamanashi and is visible from the capital city of Tokyo. The Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is the prime attraction of this Heritage Site. Energy and vitality in the summer and snow-covered peace in winter, this national treasure is glorified by seasonal changes.

Mount Fuji

Address: Kitayama, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture 418-0112, Japan

Website: Mount Fuji

5. Yakushima Island

Mononoke forest, Yakushima island
Source: Photo by Flickr user Casey Yee used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Welcome to Yakushima, a lovely subtropical island along the coast of Kyushu in Japan. The island is extensively covered by cedar forest, which constitutes of some of the oldest living trees in Japan. In fact, you will come across some trees that are over 1,000 years old. Its woods have now recovered well from past logging and some areas have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in 1993. The majority of the tourists visit the island to see the old cedar trees and hike through the island’s woods.

Yakushima Island

Address: Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan

Website: Yakushima Island

6. Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome)

Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Source: Photo by Flickr user cotaro70s used under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Genbaku Dome or Hiroshima Peace Memorial was the lone structure that remained standing in the location where the first nuclear explosion took place on August 6, 1945. Thanks to the efforts and perseverance of several people, including the residents of Hiroshima city, the structure has been preserved in a similar condition as it was soon after the explosion occurred. The Peace Memorial is a powerful and stark symbol of one of the most horrendous events in the history of mankind.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome)

Address: 1-10 Otemachi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture 730-0051, Japan

Website: Hiroshima Peace Memorial

7. Ogasawara Islands

Ogasawara Islands, Tokyo, Japan
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Anagounagi used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Ogasawara Islands constitute of over 30 islands, which are clustered into three groups. These islands are known for their rich variety of beautiful landscape and for their abundance of fauna, including an endangered species of bat called the Bonin Flying Fox, along with hundreds of endangered bird species. Hundreds of native plants can be also found on the islands. The waters here support a wealth of marine life, like various species of coral, cetaceans, and fish.

Ogasawara Islands

Address: Japan

Website: Ogasawara Islands

8. The Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryū-ji Area

Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area-122505
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vesna Vujicic-Lug... used under CC BY-SA 3.0-IGO

The Horyu-ji area has around 48 Buddhist monasteries, some of them dating back to the 7th or early 8th century. Thus, they are some of the most ancient surviving wooden edifices in the entire world. In fact, these are real masterpieces pertaining to wooden architecture that have immense importance from the viewpoint of the history of art, as they depict the adaptation of the Chinese Buddhist layout in architecture to Japanese culture.

Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryū-ji Area

Address: 1-1 Horyuji Sannai, Ikaruga, Ikoma District, Nara Prefecture 636-0115, Japan

Website: Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryū-ji Area

9. The Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

Source: Photo by Flickr user coniferconifer used under CC BY 2.0

The ancient town of Nara was the capital city of Japan from 710 AD to 784 AD. The consolidation of the national government’s framework took place during this period and Nara witnessed immense prosperity. It emerged as the principal source of Japanese culture. The city boasts several historic monuments, including Shinto shrines, the excavated remains of the Imperial Palace, and Buddhist temples that give a glimpse into the Japanese capital in the 8th century.

Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

Address: Nara Prefecture, Kansai region, Japan

Website: Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

10. The Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining

Source: Photo by Flickr user yuen yan used under CC BY-SA 2.0

This World Heritage Site is comprised of 23 components, situated in the southwestern part of Japan. It is a testimony to the unprecedented fast industrialization in Japan from the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, due to the advancement of the country’s iron and steel sector, coal mining, and shipbuilding.

Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining

Address: Southwest of Japan

Website: Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining

11. Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Gate
Source: Photo by user Jordy Meow used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Built on a holy Shinto site, the Itsukushima Shrine is located on the island of Itsukushima, in the Seto Inland Sea. It was in the 12th century that the present shrine was designed and constructed according to the Shinden-zukuri style during Japan’s Heian period. Itsukushima Shrine is widely known for its torii (Japanese gate) that stands splendidly on water. The torii is situated amidst the naturally pleasing Mt. Misen, with extensive forest and ocean view in the background. This site is harmoniously arranged in the 431.2-hectare (1065.52 acres) property. This harmony is recognized as the Japanese concept of beauty; a balance of man-made architecture and natural elements. Japanese intricate workmanship and artistry are also shown on the shrine buildings. This architectural heritage, as a symbol of belief, is highly preserved and only authentic materials are used in case of replacement.

Itsukushima Shrine

Address: 1-1 Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima 739-0588, Japan

Website: Itsukushima Shrine

12. Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle 00s3200
Source: Photo by user 663highland used under CC BY 2.5

Also known as White Heron Castle, Himeji Castle is considered both as a national treasure and a world heritage site. Himeji Castle is one of the few Japanese castles that is a highly preserved structure dating back to the early 17th century. It had survived the war and other natural calamities and is still standing in good condition. The white elegant exterior and resemblance of heron birds taking flight give it its “White Heron” label. This over-400-year-old feudal castle boasts its dignified aesthetics through the use of white plastered earthen walls, detailed woodwork, multiple layers of terraced roof, authentic stone walls, and the harmonious composition of structures. Inside this old-fortress complex are over 80 buildings, donjon, moats, baileys, and cherry blossom trees that are open for public viewing. Tour around this castle on the hilltop and learn of Japan’s elaborate architecture and rich culture.

Himeji Castle

Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012, Japan

Website: Himeji Castle

13. Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko Goko Lakes
Source: Photo by Flickr user Teo Romera used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Exemplary for its universal value, Shiretoko National Park mainly features a rich and untainted natural ecosystem for both terrestrial and marine bodies. The interaction between seasonal sea ice and marine and terrestrial species are just a few to make this ecosystem a world heritage site. Some of this wildlife include the endangered and endemic species such as Blakiston’s fish owl and Viola kitamiana Nakai (plant), globally important species like seabirds and migratory birds, salmonid species, and Steller’s sea lion. This highly protected national park is located at the Shiretoko Peninsula in north-east of Hokkaido. The best time for tourists to visit this place is during the winter season to view the sea ice. Other attractions to find are the Shiretoko Five Lakes (Shiretokogo Lake), Kamuiwakkayu Falls, and Utoro Onsen. Rest assured that while tourists are being welcomed, high quality of nature-based experiences and ecotourism programs are promoted at the same time.

Shiretoko National Park

Address: Hokkaido, Japan

Website: Shiretoko National Park

14. Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region

Oura Cathedral 20180623
Source: Photo by user Houjyou-Minori used under CC0

Japan is highly dominated by two major religions, Shinto and Buddhism. Christianity, however, was only introduced later in 1500. For some time, it gained popularity but was subsequently banned and persecuted in 1600 during most of the Edo period. This period was used by Christian believers to hide and practice their religion in secret for two centuries. Located in Nagasaki and Kumamoto district in the northwestern part of Kyushu Island, these Hidden Christian Sites survived to this day. Recognized as a world heritage site, Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region is a group of 12 sites that comprise 10 villages, 1 castle remains, and 1 cathedral. A few of these churches and places include Oura Cathedral, Sotome, Kuroshima Church, and Hirado Island - all of which bear a surviving testament to the persecution the Christians went through in Japan’s history.

Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region

Website: Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region

Plan for a vacation to Japan soon

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Fuji Japan</div>
Source: Photo by user Denis Lintner used under CC BY 3.0

Japan, the “Land of the Rising Sun” has never ceased to amaze travelers and visitors for innumerable reasons. It is amazing how a small island country has managed to survive nuclear explosions and has emerged as one of the most advanced economies in the world. Visit these top 14 UNESCO Sites In Japan soon and return home with a unique experience of a lifetime.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Pala Sen is an avid follower of travel and health updates, current affairs and entertainment news from all across the world and writing is a passion for her. She had been previously associated...Read more

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