Articles Real Estate Information Let’s visit world heritage sites in Japan! (Part 2)

Let’s visit world heritage sites in Japan! (Part 2)

Learn about the World Heritage Sites located in Japan. In total, there are 25 sites all within Japan.

In Part 1 of this article, we learned about how many World Heritage Sites there are in Japan and where they are. In this Part 2, we are going to look into each of the sites to know more.

Read also: Let’s visit world heritage sites in Japan! (Part 1)

World Heritage Sites in Japan

Image Source: Wikipedia

There are about 48 Buddhist monuments in the Horyu-ji area, in Nara Prefecture. Several were made in the late 7th or early 8th century, making them some of the oldest surviving wooden buildings in the world. These pieces of wooden architecture are considered as important for the history of art as well as for the history of religion, because do they illustrate the adaptation of Chinese Buddhist architecture to Japanese culture but also the introduction of Buddhism from China to Japan through the Korean Peninsula.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Himeji-jo, also known as "White Heron Castle" because of its elegant white appearance thanks to the white-plastered walls, is the finest surviving example of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture. Comprising 83 buildings with highly developed defense systems and protection devices, it is a masterpiece of construction in wood, combining function with aesthetic appeal.

Image by Marek Piwnicki via Unsplash

Yakushima, or Yaku Island, is an island in Kagoshima Prefecture. Located at the meeting-point of the palearctic and oriental biotic regions, Yakushima has a rich flora, with some 1,900 species and subspecies, including ancient specimens of the sugi (Japanese cedar), and also a remnant of a warm-temperate ancient forest that is unique in this region.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Situated in the mountains of northern Honshu, Shirakami-Sanchi is an extensive mountain range that includes the last virgin remains of the cool-temperate forest of Siebold's beech trees that once covered the hills and mountain slopes of northern Japan. The black bear, the serow and 87 species of birds can be found in this forest.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the popular tourist destinations, Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan from its foundation in A.D. 794 on the model of the capitals of ancient China, until the middle of the 19th century and is the center of Japanese culture for more than 1,000 years. Kyoto shows the development of Japanese wooden architecture, particularly religious architecture, and the art of Japanese gardens, which has influenced landscape gardening in the world.

Image by Sam Lee via Unsplash

Located in a mountainous region between the Gifu Prefecture and Toyama Prefecture, these villages with their Gassho-style houses subsisted on the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms. The large houses with their steeply pitched thatched roofs are the only examples of their kind in Japan. The villages have maintained a traditional way of life perfectly adapted to the environment and people's social and economic circumstances.

Image Source: GaijinPot Travel

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) was the only structure left standing in the area near the ground zero of the first atomic bomb exploded on 6 August 1945. Through the efforts of many people, it has been preserved in the same state as immediately after the bombing. The dome is not only a powerful l symbol of the most destructive force ever created by humankind, but also the hope for world peace and the ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons.

Image by Juliana Barquero via Unsplash

Located in the island of Miyajima in the Seto Inland Sea, the Itsukushima has been a holy place of Shintoism since the earliest times. The first shrine buildings here were believed to have erected in the 6th century, and the present shrine dates from the 12th century. the harmoniously arranged buildings reveal great artistic and technical skill. The red color of the shrine stands out against the backdrop of the mountains and sea.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. During this period the framework of national government was consolidated and Nara enjoyed great prosperity, emerging as the fountainhead of Japanese culture. The city's historic monuments provide a vivid picture of life in the Japanese capital in the 8th century.

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The shrines and temples of Nikko, together with their natural surroundings, have been a sacred site known for its architectural and decorative masterpieces for centuries, which are closely associated with the history of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Five hundred years of Ryukyuan history (12th-17th century) are represented by this group of sites and monuments. In 2019, a massive fire damaged nine buildings of Shuri-jo castle, including the main Seiden hall. The restoration work is underway and expected to be completed by 2026. The visitors are able to view the progress on the restoration work onsite.

Image Source: Japan Travel

Set in the dense forests of the Kii Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean, three sacred sites linked by pilgrimage routes to the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto, showcase the fusion of Shinto and Buddhism. The sites and their surrounding forest, with its abundance of streams, rivers and waterfalls, is still part of the living culture of Japan and is much visited for ritual purposes and hiking.

Image Source: Japan Travel

Shiretoko Peninsula is located in the north-east of Hokkaido. The land from the central part of the peninsula to its tip (Shiretoko Cape) and the surrounding marine area form the site. It illustrates the interaction of marine and terrestrial ecosystems as well as extraordinary ecosystem productivity, largely influenced by the formation of seasonal sea ice. It has particular importance for a number of marine and terrestrial species, some of them endangered and endemic.

Read also: Top 10 places in Hokkaido recommended by local travel websites

Image Source: Wikipedia

The Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine in the south-west of Honshu Island is a group of mountains scattering among deep river valleys featuring the archaeological remains of large-scale mines, smelting and refining sites and mining settlements between the 16th and 20th centuries. The mines contributed substantially to the overall economic development of Japan and south-east Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries, prompting the mass production of silver and gold in Japan.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Often dubbed the Oriental Galapagos, Ogasawara Islands are formed by more than 30 islands covering surface area of 7,939 hectares. The islands are the only region in Japan that belong to Oceania biographical region in Japan and home to a wealth of fauna, including the Bonin Flying Fox, a critically endangered bat, and 195 endangered bird species. 440 native plant species have been found, while numerous species of fish, cetaceans and corals live in the waters.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Hiraizumi comprises five sites and features traces of government offices dating from the 11th and 12th centuries when Hiraizumi was the administrative center of the northern part of Japan. The sites were created based on the thought of Pure Land Buddhism, which spread to Japan in the 8th century, in an attempt to embody an ideal world. The fusion of the Pure Land Buddhism and the indigenous nature worship and Shintoism developed a concept of planning and garden design that was unique to Japan.

Image by Nicholas Turner via Unsplash

Fujisan, or Mt. Fuji, is a 3,776m stratovolcano that lies between Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures and has long been the object of pilgrimages and inspired artists and poets. The property consists of 25 sites which includes the mountain itself but also crater shrines, pilgrim routes, lava trees and lava tree molds at the base of the mountain. Fujisan also became an internationally recognized icon of Japan through prints of ukiyo-e, “pictures of the floating world” and have influenced the development of Western art.

Image Source: Wikipedia

This property is a historic sericulture and silk mill complex established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the Gunma Prefecture. It consists of four sites that correspond to the different stages in the production of raw silk. The property became the center of innovation for the production of raw silk and marked Japan’s entry into the modern, industrialized era, making it the world’s leading exporter of raw silk to Europe and the United States.

Image Source: Wikipedia

The site encompasses 23 component parts, mainly located in the southwest of Japan. It bears testimony to the rapid industrialization of the country from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century, through the development of the iron and steel industry, shipbuilding and coal mining. The site is considered to be the first successful transfer of Western industrialization to a non-Western country and illustrates the process of the technology transfer from Europe and America to Japan and how the technology was adapted to the country’s needs and social traditions.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Chosen from the work of Le Corbusier, a Swiss-French architect, designer, painter, urban planner and writer, who was one of the pioneers of modern architecture, the 17 sites are spread over seven countries (France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, India, and Japan). The main building of the National Museum of Western Art is the only building designed by the architect in Japan. His work reflects not only the solutions to the challenges of inventing new architectural techniques, but also the internationalization of architectural practice across the world.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Located 60 km off the western coast of Kyushu Island, the island of Okinoshima is an exceptional example of the tradition of worship of a sacred island. The archaeological sites have been preserved virtually intact and provide a chronological record of how the rituals performed there changed from the 4th to the 9th centuries. Many of the votive objects deposited as offerings in the sites are of exquisite workmanship and had been brought from overseas, providing evidence of trades between Japan, the Korean Peninsula and the Asian continent.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Located in the north-western part of Kyushu Island, this serial property consists of ten villages, remains of the Hara Castle and a cathedral, dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries. They reflect the era of prohibition of the Christian faith, as well as the revitalization of Christian communities after the official lifting of prohibition. These sites bear unique testimony to a cultural tradition nurtured by hidden Christians in the Nagasaki region who secretly transmitted their faith during the period of prohibition.

Image Source: Japan Travel

This property includes 49 kofun (“old mounds” in Japanese) that were tombs for members of the elite. This group of kofun forms the richest material representation of the Kofun period, from the 3rd to the 6th century. The size and design forms of kofun vary (keyhole, scallop, square or circle). They demonstrate the differences in social classes of that period and show evidence of a highly sophisticated funerary system.

Image Source: Wikipedia

This 42,698-hectare subtropical rainforests on four islands are located on the boundary of the East China Sea and Philippine Sea in the southwest of Japan. Entirely uninhabited by humans, the site has high biodiversity value with a very high percentage of endemic species, many of them globally threatened. There are also a number of different endemic species confined to each respective island that are not found elsewhere in the property.

Image Source: Japan Guide

The property consists of 17 archaeological sites in the southern part of Hokkaido Island and northern Tohoku. They bear a unique testimony to the rare and very early development of the pre-agricultural yet sedentary Jomon culture. Expressions of Jomon spirituality were given tangible form in objects such as lacquered pots, clay tablets with the impression of feet, the dogu figurines, as well as in ritual places including earthworks and stone circles of more than 50 meters in diameter.


Agency of Cultural Affairs, Japan

UNESCO World Heritage Convention

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