World Heritage Sites in Japan

World Heritage Sites in Japan
Japan's World Heritage sites are scattered all over the country.
All the spots are registered as natural or historical (or having both values) world heritage sites.
This article introduces some of the World Heritage sites in Japan.

Please note that the hours of operation may change or be closed depending on the day of the week or season. Please make sure to check the official website before visiting.

About the World Heritage

青島のモアイ像Moai stutures at Nichinan beach

Something with the above two elements and values
These are buildings, nature, etc., that have been registered on the World Heritage List under the World Convention adopted by the UNESCO Association in 1972. There are three types of World Heritage Sites as follows:
- Cultural world heritage: Sone sites and buildings have great value to humanity and those created by humankind.
- Natural world heritage: Some sites tell the history of the earth and the evolution of plants and animals.
- Mixed world heritage: Some sites have the above two elements and values.

1. Shiretoko (Hokkaido)


An unexplored area protected by great nature

Shiretoko is a World Natural Heritage site that was registered in 2005.
It is a peninsula located in the eastern part of Hokkaido. Due to its harsh natural environment, the ecosystem has not been destroyed and remains in the past.
The Shiretoko Peninsula is home to nature, such as the Oshinkoshin Waterfall, a beautiful wateflow, and Mt. Iou, one of Shiretoko mountain range and an active volcano that is still smoking.
In winter, drift ice can be seen the Okhotsk Sea and along the coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula.
It is rare to see drift ice at such a low latitude as Shiretoko, and it can only be seen when various conditions come together.

2. Shirakami Sanchi (Aomori/Akita Prefecture)

 Shirakami Sanchi

A vast virgin beech forest

Along with Yakushima, it was registered as a World Natural Heritage site in 1993.
It is believed that this virgin forest was formed about 8,000 years ago.
It is one of the largest beech forests in the world, covering about 130,000 square kilometers.
The water stored by the beech trees flows down as mountain streams, becoming waterfalls, such as the Anmon Waterfall, etc.
There is also the Aoike Pond, which has a beautiful mystical blue color and is a good place to take a stroll.

  •  Shirakami Sanchi 2
  •  Shirakami Sanchi 3

3. Nikko Toshogu Shrine (Tochigi Prefecture)

 Nikko Toshogu Shrine 1

Holy Land of the Tokugawa Shogunate

. Registered as a World Cultural Heritage site in 1999 as one of the temples and shrines of Nikko. The gorgeous carvings are characteristic of the shrine, and you can spend all day looking at them. Since Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate enshrined to the shrine, it became the sanctuary of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867). Around the Nikko, there are maqny nature spots, such asYunoko Lake, Mt. Nantai, andLake Chuzenji. It is a place where you can fully enjoy the scenery of the four seasons.

  •  Nikko Toshogu Shrine 2
  •  Nikko Toshogu Shrine 3

4. Shirakawa-go (Gifu Prefecture)

 Shirakawa-go 1

World Heritage Sites still in use

The village is located on the border between Toyama and Gifu prefectures and was registered
as a World Cultural Heritage site in 1995. The places where people live and work
were highly evaluated. The village is located between the mountains, one of the heaviest
snowfall areas in Japan. The unique house shape (Gassho Zukuri) was born from the wisdom
of the people to survive in this region. It is a place where you can enjoy the old landscape
of Japan.

  •  Shirakawa-go 2
  •  Shirakawa-go 3

5. Himeji Castle (Hyogo Prefecture)

 Himeji Castle 1

A masterpiece of castle architecture

In 1993, together with Horyuji Temple, it was registered as Japan's first World Heritage Site.
It is also known as Shirasagi Castle (the white heron castle) because of its beautiful appearance.
After the Battle of Sekigahara, Ikeda Terumasa (1565-1613) became the lord of Himeji Castle
and undertook major renovations. He was built on a foundation of castle architecture.
The castle is conveniently located in Himeji City, and it is easy to access.

  •  Himeji Castle 2
  •  Himeji Castle 3

6. Itsukushima Shrine (Hiroshima Prefecture)

 Itsukushima Shrine 1

Vermilion-lacquered shrine floating on the sea

Registered as a World Heritage Site in 1996, it is the headquarters of Itsukushima Shrine,
located all over Japan. The shrine was built in the Shinden style by Taira no Kiyomori (1118-1181),
who worshipped it. Many of the buildings of Itsukushima Shrine have been designated
as National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. The shrine is located in
the northern part of Miyajima, a 10-minute ferry ride away. It is also home to Misen, which is
designated as a national natural monument.

  •  Itsukushima Shrine 2
  •  Itsukushima Shrine 3

7. Mt. Fuji (Yamanashi/Shizuoka Prefecture)

 Mt. Fuji 1

The tallest mountain in Japan and attracts people with its beauty

Mt. Fuji has been recognized as an "object of worship and a source of art.” It was registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 2013. There are many caves around Mt Fuji, such as the Narusawa Ice Cave. In addition, among the Fuji 5 lakes that are scattered around foot of Mt Fuji, Lake Yamanaka is the closest to Mt. Fuj and boasts the largest area.
Enjoy a variety of activities in the great nature.

  •  Mt. Fuji 2
  •  Mt. Fuji 3

8. Yakushima (Kagoshima Prefecture)

 Yakushima 1

Island of God with a Unique Ecosystem

Yakushima is an island located about 60 km southwest of Kagoshima prefecture, Japan. It was registered as a World Natural Heritage site in 1993 along with Shirakami Sanchi.
The island has a unique ecosystem represented by yakusugi trees (cedar), several thousand years old. It has extremely high rainfall (more than 8,000 mm per year) that promotes the growth of plants and animals and forms rivers and waterfalls like Senpiro no taki waterfalls .

  • Yakushima 2
  •  Yakushima 3

9. Shuri Castle (Okinawa Prefecture)


A heritage site influenced by various cultures

Shuri Castle was registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 2000 as one of the "Gusuku and Related Heritage Sites of the Kingdom of Ryukyu.”In addition to the above, there are other sites registered as World Cultural Heritage sites, such as the Nakijin Gusuku (castle)and the Naka Gusuku. In the 15th century, Okinawa was called Ryukyu and was divided into north, center, and south and fought each other. As you can see, the heritage site was strongly influenced by Chinese cultures.


We have introduced some of the World Heritage sites scattered around Japan.
There are many World Heritage sites in Japan.
Each site has unique characteristics as the world heritage.
If you have time, please visit them!

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