Visiting Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
(World Heritage Registration: 1993) Himeji Castle is the finest surviving example of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture. Most of the structures in the 83-building complex were constructed between 1601 and 1609. Surrounding the donjon are watchtowers, gate buildings and plastered earthen walls all strategically positioned for defense purposes. Himeji Castle satisfies UNESCO World Heritage criteria #1 and #4.

Himeji Castle

Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu cities)

(World Heritage Registration: 1993) Kyoto (Heian-kyo) was the seat of Japan’s imperial court between 794-1868, and has prospered as the center of Japanese culture for more than 1,200 years. In fact, the whole of Kyoto could be regarded as a museum of Japanese history. After 1868, the national government recognized the need to protect Kyoto’s cultural properties, historic sites and monuments and the surrounding areas have been provided with appropriate protection and maintenance ever since. Kyoto satisfies UNESCO World Heritage criteria #2 and #4.

Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

(World Heritage Registration: 1993) From 710-784, Nara, enjoyed great prosperity and established itself 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. During the Nara Period the government officially supported Buddhism and as such, a collection of large temples were built at strategic points to venerate the emperor and the state. The monuments of Nara satisfy UNESCO World Heritage criteria #2, #3, #4 and #6.

Shirakami Mountains

(World Heritage Registration: 1993) The Shirakami Mountains cover an area of approximately 1,300 sq. km located on the border between Aomori and Akita Prefectures in northeastern Japan. The area is unique in Japan as it is home to a vast untouched Seibold’s beech forest covering more than 170 sq. km and is completely devoid of manmade structures. The area satisfies UNESCO World Heritage criteria #9.

Yakushima Island

(World Heritage Registration: 1993) Yakushima is a round mountainous island that rises out of the ocean south of Kagoshima, the southern tip of Kyushu. A variety of subtropical to arctic vegetation range from the seashores to the mountaintops, and the heavy annual rainfall contribute to the island’s more than 1,900 distinctive species and subspecies of vegetation. This ancient coniferous forests, which is also home Page24

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to endangered bird species, is treasured for its ecology as well as its morphology. Yakushima satisfies UNESCO World Heritage criteria #7 and #9.

gate) and shrine buildings are built on the coastal edge, they appear as if they are afloat on the sea when the tide is in. Miyajima satisfies UNESCO World Heritage criteria #1, #2, #4 and #6.

Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Ranges

Historic Gassho-style Villages

(World Heritage Registration: 1995) The three villages of Ogimachi in Gifu Prefecture and Ainokura and Suganuma in Toyama Prefecture, lay claim to Japan’s only group of historical farmhouses possessing the unique and remarkable architectural character referred to as “Gassho-style.” The Gassho-style houses were built between the 17th century and the beginning of the 20th century and are named for their unique Gassho-shaped roof. As it snows heavily in winter in this region, the steep roofs aid in snow removal and thus prevent the houses from being crushed. Gassho-style villages satisfy UNESCO World Heritage criteria #4 and #5.

Temples and Shrines of Nikko

(World Heritage Registration: 1999) Today, Nikko is a famous sightseeing point, but originally it was revered in mountain worship as the center of religious devotion in the Kanto region. The shrines and temples of Nikko, together with their natural surroundings, have for centuries been considered sacred for their architectural and decorative perfection. UNESCO World Heritage criteria satisfied: #1, #4 and #6.

(World Heritage Site Registration: 2005) Set in the dense forests of the Kii Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean, three sacred sites – Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, and Koyasan - linked by pilgrimage routes to the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto, reflect the fusion of Shinto (the ancient tradition of nature worship) and Buddhism. The surrounding forest landscape and collection of 9th-century shrines, offer a very well documented tradition of mountain worship spanning more than 1,200 years. The Kii Mountains satisfy UNESCO World Heritage criteria #2, #3, #4 and #6.

Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu

Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome)

(World Heritage Registration: 1996) The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (now known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial) was Hiroshima City’s sole surviving structure after the atomic bomb explosion in August 1945. Still today, the dome serves as a silent reminder of the tragedy of the bombing and the futility of war. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial satisfies UNESCO World Heritage criterion #6.

(World Heritage Registration: 2000) The Gusuku Sites and related properties represent 500 years of Ryukyu history (12th-17th century). The castles, built on imposing elevated sites, are evidence of the supremacy of the Ryukyu kingdom, while the sacred sites provide mute testimony to the rare survival of an ancient form of religion into the modern age. The Gusuku sites satisfy UNESCO World Heritage criteria #2, #3 and #6.

Shiretoko Mountains

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

(World Heritage Registration: 1996) Miyajima is a 9 km by 6 km island located in Hiroshima Bay. With the Itsukushima Shrine standing in an inlet backed by the surrounding mountains soaring steeply from the coast, the island is often considered among the most scenic places in Japan. Because the Otorii (shrine

(World Heritage Site Registration: 2005) Shiretoko Peninsula is located in the northeastern region of Hokkaido. It provides an outstanding example of the coexistence of marine/terrestrial ecosystems and ecosystem productivity evidenced by the formation of rare low-latitude sea ice. The site is globally important for preserving threatened sea birds and migratory birds, a number of salmonid species, and a number of marine mammals and cetacean species. Shiretoko satisfies UNESCO World Heritage criteria #9 and #10.

UNESCO World Heritage Selection Criteria
1. A masterpiece of human creative genius; 2. An example of an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design; 3. An exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a current or extinct civilization; 4. An outstanding example of a building, architectural or technological structure or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history; 5. An outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change; 6. A direct or tangible association with events or living traditions, ideas or beliefs, or artistic or literary works of outstanding universal significance. 7. A superlative natural phenomena or area of exceptional natural beauty or aesthetic importance; 8. An outstanding representation of major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or geomorphic or physiographic features; 9. An outstanding representation of significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems; 10. An area, which contains significant natural habitats for conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding scientific or universal value. Page25

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