World Heritage Sites - Japan

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization has established a registery of what is called World Heritage Sites.

These are sites of cultural (man made) significance or natural beauty that have been proposed and accepted by the host countries as worthy of preservation for present and future generations to see, visit, and experience.

The official worldwide list of sites makes for interesting reading. Specifically for Japan you can visit World Heritage Sites in Japan.


Japan's World Heritage Sites

Japan currently has 18 sites designated as World Heritage Sites, and an additional 11 listed as tentative future sites.

We hope to visit at least five of the World Heritage Sites and two of the tentative sites on this trip!

There is a Japanese-centric website that summarizes these sites. The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) also has a nice summary. Clicking on any of the images on this page leads to another nice page that includes a list of links to all the sites on the left, and details about the selected location in the body; for example, click here.


The Official List

Here is the official list of Japan World Heritage Sites; sites that we will, or could, visit, are flagged with a message in red.

(Note that a World Heritage Site can itself encompass multiple buildings or compounds.)

  1. Shiretoko - Considered the last pristine wilderness in Japan, this is located on the island of Hokkaido, so we can't squeeze this in at all.
  2. Shirakami Sanchi - a mountain range nowhere near our path, so we'll take a miss on this one.
  3. Shirakawa-go - a mountain village not far from Takayama. We are planning to go.
  4. The Shrines and Temples of Nikko - Could travel there from Tokyo, but it's not really convenient to our plans, so we'll skip this one.
  5. The Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara - Nara is a delightful city a short train ride away from Kyoto. We are planning to go.
  6. Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area - this is not too far from Nara, which we we will be visiting, so it's a possibility.
  7. Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto - This includes 13 temples, 3 shrines, and Nijo Castle in Kyoto and vicinity. We will visit many of them while in Kyoto.
  8. Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range - Out of the way for us, so we'll pass.
  9. Himeji-jo Castle - a classical Japanese castle; about 1.5 hour train ride from Kyoto, so it's a slight possibility.
  10. Hiroshima Peace Memorial - Also known as the "A-bomb Dome". We won't be going that far West.
  11. Itsukushima Shrine - Part of Miyajma island complex near Hiroshima. We won't be going that far West.
  12. Yakushima - An island famed for its beauty, but out of the way for us, so we'll pass.
  13. Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu - On Okinawa island, way south and west, so we'll pass.
  14. Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine - remains of old mining site, way out of the way for us, so we'll pass.
  15. Ogasawara Islands - looks like a tropical paradise; but 25.5 hour ferry trip from Tokyo (south and a little west); we'll have to pass here, also.
  16. Hiraizumi - 11th century cultures and treasures. A two hour + train ride from Tokyo, so it's a skip for this trip.
  17. Fujisan - Mt. Fuji, added in 2013. We will visit the area while we are in Hakone. If the weather holds, we will have numerous views of this sacred mountain as we tour around Hakone.
  18. Tomioka Silk Mill - four components spread across Gunma prefecture. We will not make it on this trip.

Of the 11 tentative World Heritage Sites in Japan, here are two that are along our way:

  1. Temples, Shrines and other structures of Ancient Kamakura - One of the ancient capitals of Japan, this city makes a great day trip, and we might go.
  2. Main Building of the National Museum of Western Art - this is in the Ueno district of Tokyo, so it's a possibility.