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19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan That We Love
Picture | December 11th, 2019 | Dayna Hannah
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What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

Any landmark or area deemed a World Heritage Site becomes legally protected under national treaties for the collective interest of humanity. Japan has nineteen cultural and four natural sites inscribed on this list. You can’t throw a stone without hitting one of these cherished places! Here are our favorite UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan.

1. MOUNT FUJI

Added in 2013

Without question, Mount Fuji is the symbol of Japan. Many people have conquered her peak, but you don’t need to climb the summit to enjoy her majestic beauty. Around the base of Mount Fuji, you can find many activities, attractions, and panoramic views. During spring and summer, clouds often obstruct her peak, but when it cools down in winter, they disappear.

See Mount Fuji on Your Next Vacation

2. HIMEJI CASTLE

Added in 1993

Himeji-jo is one of a dozen castles in Japan that have survived the centuries in their original forms. Many consider Himeji as the best among them. The expansive grounds have sophisticated defense systems and stunning buildings. The white plaster walls are especially striking when cherry blossoms or autumn leaves surround them.

Book a Tour to Himeji Castle

3. KINKAKUJI

Added in 1994

Gold leaf covers the top two floors of Kinkakuji, which glitters in all directions when the sun hits it. When you pass through the entrance gate, you’ll immediately see the temple across from a reflective pond. No matter which season you visit Japan, the surrounding garden is a sight to behold.

Our Packages that Include Kinkakuji

4. NIJO CASTLE

Added in 1994

After over a century of near-constant warfare, Japan entered the relatively peaceful Edo Period. Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu built Nijo Castle to serve as his residence in Kyoto. There are three main areas to explore, including Japanese-style gardens. There are many varieties of cherry blossom trees here, including 400 that bloom from late March and through the entire month of April.

See Nijo Castle When You Travel With Us

5. ITSUKUSHIMA SHRINE

Added in 1996

Itsukushima Shrine earned its place on the World Heritage List for its outstanding architecture that seamlessly blends with Miyajima Island’s nature. Taira no Kiyomori founded the shrine in the 12th century. The torii gate and building complex sit on pillars over Hiroshima Bay. At high tide, they look as though they’re floating on the water.

Go to Itsukushima Shrine on Your Next Trip to Japan

6. TODAIJI TEMPLE

Added in 1998

Nara was the first capital city of Japan, and during its heyday, the emperor commissioned the construction of Todaiji Temple to promote Buddhism in Japan. The massive structure we see today is only a fraction of what first stood, but it is still the largest wooden building in the world. Inside you’ll see a 48 meter-high bronze statue of Buddha.

Don't Miss out on Seeing Todaiji Temple

7. KOYASAN

Added in 2004

The name “Mount Koya” doesn’t refer to one place, but a settlement of temples south of Osaka. There are around 120 sub-temples that offer lodgings for pilgrims exploring the area’s famous sites. Some of the best places to visit here are Garan, Okinoin, and Kongobuji Temples.

Check out Our Tours that Include Koyasan

8. RYOANJI

Added in 1994

Ryoanji Temple’s rock garden attracts hundreds of visitors every day. Its brilliant, but unknown, designer strategically placed 15 large stones that pop in and out of sight depending on your vantage point. No matter where you sit on the veranda of the former priest’s residence, at least one rock will be obstructed from your view.

See Ryoanji with Us

9. TENRYUJI TEMPLE

Added in 1994

Tenryuji is the most significant temple in the Arashiyama district of Kyoto. In the 14th century, Shogun Ashikaga Takauji betrayed Emperor Go-Daigo and felt haunted for his actions. Ashikaga built Tenryuji to appease the emperor’s restless spirit. The central garden is original to the temple’s construction and is well-known for its colorful autumn leaves.

Browse Our Itineraries that Go to Tenryuji Temple

10. GENBAKU DOME (THE ATOMIC BOMB DOME)

Added in 1996

When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, most of the city was flattened or burned down. The former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall was one of the few buildings that remained standing. It is now one of the most recognizable sites included in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

See Genbaku Dome when You Book a Tour to Hiroshima

11. TOSHOGU SHRINE

Added in 1999

The small town of Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture is home to an immense national park and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The most revered among them is Toshogu Jingu, which enshrines Tokugawa Ieyasu’s spirit. Toshogu Shrine is also home to traditional art pieces, including the Nemuri Neko and Three Wise Monkeys wood carvings.

See Toshogu Shrine for Yourself

12. KIYOMIZUDERA TEMPLE

Added in 1994

Kiyomizudera Temple deserves to be at the top of your bucket list for Kyoto. The Main Hall’s wooden stage overlooks a forest that has many cherry blossom trees and maples. Late March to early April and October through November are the best months to see the illumination festivals the temple holds.

Head to Kiyomizudera Temple on Your Next Vacation

13. DAIGOJI TEMPLE

Added in 1994

The southeastern region of Kyoto is home to Daigoji Temple, where Toyotomi Hideyoshi hosted the first cherry blossom viewing party. Several types of cherry trees grow here that bloom at different times during spring. Daigoji is also splendid in the fall when the many maples on the grounds change colors.

Explore Daigoji Temple on Your Next Journey Through Japan

14. SHIRETOKO NATIONAL PARK

Added in 2005

When the Japanese government annexed Hokkaido, they made several attempts but failed to tame the Shiretoko Peninsula. The lands became a national park, which has many areas that are impossible for humans to hike through. The best way to explore the bountiful nature is to view it from a sightseeing cruise. Most cruises operate from April to November.

Take a Cruise on Shiretoko Peninsula with Us

15. NIKKO FUTARASAN SHRINE

Added in 1999

The austere Futarasan Shrine sits next to the lavish Toshogu Jingu. The Buddhist monk Shodo Shonin established Furatarasan in 782 and dedicated it to Nikko City’s sacred mountains. Most of the shrine is free to enter, but there is an area that requires visitors to pay a small fee. Inside of here is a garden, more halls, a spring, and sacred trees.

Our Itineraries that Include Nikko Futarasan Shrine

16. SHIRAKAWAGO HISTORIC VILLAGE

Added in 1995

In the remote mountains that span Gifu and Toyama Prefectures, it’s hard to picture the region as a residential area, but people have lived here for centuries. The steep thatched roofs of the farmhouses in Shirakawago made it possible for the villagers to live and prosper despite the harsh conditions. Some of these homes are over 250-years-old. Upon reservation, visitors can stay in some of these houses to get a more immersive experience.

Take in the View on One of these Tours

17. CHUSONJI TEMPLE

Added in 2011

Chusonji came into prominence when the Fujiwara clan moved its base to Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture. However, when the clan fell in the 12th century, so did most of the temple’s buildings. Thankfully, among the ones to survive was the spectacular Konjikido. Like Kinakuji, gold leaf covers its exterior.

Include Chosonji Temple on Your Trip to Japan

18. RINNOJI TEMPLE

Added in 1999

Founded in the 8th century, Rinnoji Temple is the most significant Buddhist temple in Nikko. The main building houses gold lacquered statues of Amida, Senju-Kannon, and Bato-Kannon. You can also find a small Japanese-style garden, which is a popular place to see autumn leaves in the city.

Check out Our Tours that Go to Rinnoji Temple

19. IWAMI GINZAN SILVER MINE

Added in 2007

During the 16th century, around one-third of the world’s silver came from Iwami Ginzan. There are 14 areas considered part of the mine, which include fortresses, shrines, and port towns. Visitors can walk through the Ryugenji Mabu Mine Shaft to get a better idea of the labor put into producing silver.

See Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine when You Book with Us


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