In Japan, UNESCO World Heritage Sites are extremely popular and there is even a weekly travel show dedicated to showcasing sites from all over the world. The United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) aims (among an incredibly long list of other duties) to designate and help to protect cultural or natural sites that show “outstanding universal value.” “Sekai isan” or World Heritage Sites, are so popular that Japanese tour companies do a steady business developing mass tours all around the world as well as within Japan itself.

Despite the lack of knowledge on World Heritage Sites, Japan is filled with them (relative to other countries) and boasts some impressive and incredibly preserved sites.
If you are planning a visit to Japan, you can hardly go wrong by including a few of Japan’s 16 World Heritage Sites in your itinerary. To help you out, and because I know you are not going to search for them on your own, here they are. They are grouped by region starting north to south and include the 2 new additions that were just added in June 2011!

Cultural UNESCO sites (文化遺産):


By Luthor522

-?June 2011 : Hiraizumi – Buddha Land (Jodo) and archaeological ruins represent the architectural garden (平泉-仏国土(浄土)を表す建築・庭園及び考古学的遺跡群 )


By houroumono

– June 2007 : Iwami silver mine ruins and its Cultural Landscape – (石見銀山遺跡とその文化的景観)

By Monoblogoo

– July 2004 : Sacred Kii Mountain Range and Pilgrimage – (紀伊山地の霊場と参詣道 )


By buck82

– December 2000 : Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu – (琉球王国のグスク及び関連遺産群)

By Gabriele Morano

– December 1999 : Shrines and Temples of Nikko – (日光の社寺)

By wallyg

– December 1998 : Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara – (古都奈良の文化財)

By sputnik__

– December 1996 : Itsukushima Shrine – (厳島神社)

By Christina T

– December 1996 : A-Bomb Dome – (原爆ドーム)

By tsuda

– December 1995 : Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama – (白川郷・五箇山の合掌造り集落)

By twiga_swala

– December 1994 : Monuments of Ancient Kyoto – (古都京都の文化財)

By David Hulme

– December 1993 : Himeji Castle – (姫路城)


By jpellgen

– December 1993 : Horyuji Buddhist Monuments in the region – (法隆寺地域の仏教建造物)

Natural heritage (自然遺産) :

– June 2011 : Ogasawara – (小笠原諸島)

By mtsn

– July 2005 : Shiretoko – (知床)

By 8og

– December 1993 : Shirakami Mountains – (白神山地 )

By 8og

– December 1993 : Yakushima – (屋久島)