10 Incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan
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Of course, Tokyo is a must-see when visiting Japan. Bright lights, cute cafés, and futuristic style– there’s no way anyone could miss out on these city sights. But dig a little deeper into Japan’s history and nature, and you’ll find an overwhelming amount of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to explore. These 10 incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan will make you want to travel there now! Read on to get inspired.
1. Ogasawara Islands
The Ogasawara Islands consist of 30 subtropical and tropical islands, but only two of them are inhabited: Chichijima and Hahajima. Both of perfect for nature lovers, especially those who wants to have trouble deciding what’s clearer at the Ogasawara Islands– the crystal blue waters or the star-studded midnight sky. There’s a ton of activities to do here such as scuba diving, whale watching, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, hiking, and fishing.
Tip: A ferry ride to get to the islands from Tokyo takes about 25 hours on a good day and leaves once a week. Make sure to leave ample room for flights or trains if you are traveling someplace afterwards as the ferry could take longer if there’s bad weather or rough seas.
2. Himeji Castle
The Himeji Castle is one of the most spectacular castles in Japan. Dating back to the 1400s, it’s one of the country’s twelve original castles as it’s never been destroyed by earthquakes, fires, or wars like other castles in Japan. It’s a popular place to see cherry blossoms bloom so head to Osaka late March/early April.
Tip: Don’t pay attention to Google Maps, which says it’s 1.5 hours away from Osaka. The bullet train will get you there in 30-40 minutes!
3. Mount Fuji
At 12,388 feet (3,776 meters) tall, Mount Fuji is the tallest peak in Japan, which many enjoy hiking at. This active volcano is only about 62 miles (100 km) from Tokyo so you can easily see it from Tokyo and Yokohama on a clear day or on the right hand side of the train when traveling from Tokyo to Osaka.
Tip: Bring cash for the bus ticket to the 5th station.
4. Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko National Park is one of Japan’s most beautiful and unspoiled. You can only see the northern tip from a boat or if you go on a multiple day trek. Although visiting the park in the summertime is ideal, if you go in the water, you’ll be able to see drift ice!
Tip: Although many say that the Shiretoko National Park is the highlight of their Hokkaido trip, don’t miss out on the chance of eating sushi in Hokkaido. It’s the sushi capital of Japan.
5. National Museum of Western Art
The National Museum of Western Art became aUNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2016 because it was designed by Le Corbusier, one of the pioneers of modern architecture. The collection isn’t expansive, but many describe it as a wonderfully quaint place for art lovers.
Tip: To escape the crowds of Tokyo, go in the evening when the museum closes late.
Yakushima is a subtropical island that’s covered in some of Japan’s oldest living trees; some of which are over 7,000 years old! Best known for hot springs, hiking, and of course, its cedar trees, this is the island to go to for adventurers.
Tip: Locals exaggerate and say that it rains “35 days a month” here. It basically rains everyday so pack a rain jacket or poncho and non-slippery shoes for hiking.
7. Iwami Ginzan
The Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine was the most important mining site in Japan for almost 400 years. It produced one-third of the world’s silver in the first half of the 17th century. The history of this place is quite fascinating, but to top it off the experience, check out Omori Town, which has a population of about 500 people.
Tip: Ditch the audio guide and read the fact boards instead so you can take in the sights at your own pace.
8. Nijo-jo Castle
Built in 1603, this castle was originally an imperial palace before being donated to the city to use as a historic cite. It is one of the best examples of castle palace’s architecture during Japan’s feudal era. This castle has three areas to explore including a garden, which are all surrounded by a moat and stone walls!
Tip: Since you have to take your shoes off in the castle, wear thick socks or bring an extra pair or your feet will be cold walking around!
9. Itsukushima Shrine
The Itsukushima Shrine is known by travelers worldwide because of its torii gate built over water, which makes it appear as if it was floating. The shrine itself is also built over water and consists of multiple buildings to explore like the prayer hall and noh theater stage. These are all connected by boardwalks above the water.
Tip: If you want to see the gate up close, then come at low tide. If you want to see it “floating” and want the ultimate picturesque shot, come at high tide.
10. Kinkaku-ji Temple
The Kinkakuji temple in northern Kyoto is a grand structure overlooking a scenic pond. It is a fine example of the wealthy aristocratic lifestyle in the 1300s and glows extravagantly with gold-leaf paint. Despite the hoards of tourist that come here daily, it’s still quite calm and serene.
Tip: Head in early to avoid the crowd.
Ready to check out these incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan? Book this 7 day trip with airfare, hotel, and train for $1,899 out of Los Angeles! Of course, you can fly out of other airports too for an additional cost.
Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by! xo.