Unesco World Heritage Sites in Japan

Itsukushima, photo by scarletgreen

The list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites comprises the most beautiful, unique and fascinating places on the planet, some very old and some brand new, some natural and some artificial. Japan has sixteen such places of outstanding value, and all of them are important tourist attractions. If you find yourself at loss when it comes to which Japanese attractions you should visit while in the country of the rising sun, world heritage sites are a safe bet that you’ll have a great time while learning about Japanese culture, history, or seeing its natural wonders. Whether you’re interested in castles, temples, or spectacular natural sites, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Japan will not disappoint you.


The Japanese rural life of the past is replete with charm from many people’s point of view, because there is something calm and at the same time fascinating about small Japanese villages. Small, orderly houses,  narrow streets lined with small shops and restaurants, and the feel that everyone knows everyone  holds much appeal. In the case of the historic village of Shirakawa-go, the main draw are the traditional buildings called gassho-zukuri.

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle, photo by tiseb on Flickr

Himeji Castle, the most famous castle in Japan, is one of the sights that most people who travel to Japan decide to visit. Himeji is the finest surviving example of 17th century castle complex in Japan. The complex has over 80 preserved buildings, in addition to the extremely sophisticated defense systems and beautiful parks. The brilliant white exterior of the castle gained it the nickname of White Egret Castle.

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

For centuries, Itsukushima island has been one of the holiest places in Japan. The Shinto shrine dates back to the 13th century but it was built on the site of an earlier structure, dedicated to the goddess Amaterasu. Because the island is sacred, throughout much of history people were not allowed to step foot on it, and so the shrine was built in the water, like a pier.The vibrant red torii (gate) of the shrine is one of the most unforgettable Unesco World Heritage Sites in Japan.

The shrines and temples of Nikko

Shirakawa-go, photo by bertconcepts on Flickr

This world heritage site is one of the richest and most interesting places in Japan, especially if you like religious architecture. The site, located in Tochigi Prefecture, has no less than 103 buildings, belonging to two0 Shinto shrines (Futara-san and Tosho-gu), and a Buddhist Temple (Rinno-ji). Many of the buildings date back to the Edo period and showcase the architecture and style of the period.

Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko Peninsula is one of the wildest and most pristine corners of Japan, whose name (of Ainu origin) is very fitting: the end of the earth. This remote region is blessed with extraordinary natural beauty as well as a rich wildlife, which includes the largest brown bear populations in Japan. Don’t miss Kamuiwakka, a hot springs waterfall.

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