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UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan

| Words by Ashley Diterlizzi |

Japan has many UNESCO world heritage listed sites located throughout the country, from natural wonders to ancient temples and architecture.

Ogasawara Islands

Home to more than 30 separate islands, Ogasawara’s landscapes are home to a wealth of fauna and flora. A total of 195 endangered bird species and 441 native plants have been documented in the region. The critically endangered bat, the Bonin Flying Fox, calls the islands home. The islands were added to UNESCOs world heritage list for exhibiting ongoing evolutionary processes within oceanic island ecosystems.


Hiroshima Peace Memorial

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Dome was added to UNESCO’s world heritage list in 1996. The structure was all that remained standing where the first atomic bomb exploded over the city in August, 1945. The dome has been preserved since the bombing and now stands as a memorial to those who were killed and injured.


Located in the mountains of Honshu, the wilderness area covering the Shirakami mountain range are home to the last virgin remains of Siebold’s beech trees. The trees once covered the hills and mountain slopes of northern Japan. The black beer and 87 species of birds also call the forest home.



Considered the finest surviving example of 17th century Japanese castle architecture, Himeji-jo dates back to the Shogun period. The castle is considered a masterpiece and sits on a summit in the central part of Harima Plain. The castle functioned in the transportation hub of west Japan until the fall of the Shogun in 1868.


Located on Yaku Island, Yakushima has 1,900 species and subspecies of native flora which includes the ancient Japanese cedar. There are also remnants of an ancient warm-temperate forest hidden within Yakushima. The unique ecosystem is thanks to its high annual rainfall which animals and plants have adapted to.

Golden temple, Kyoto

The monuments of ancient Kyoto

Built in the year 794, Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan and the centre of Japanese culture for more than 1,000 years. Kyoto has Japanese wooden architecture, religious buildings and Japanese gardens. Most of the 198 buildings and 12 gardens that are listed by UNESCO were built or designed between the 10th and 17th centuries.


Located in the north east of Hokkaido, Shiretoko site includes the land of the peninsula, the cape and the marine area surrounding. The site has one of the most integrated ecosystems in the world, largely influenced by seasonal ice. Shiretoko is home to many endangered fish and plants as well as threatened migratory birds and seabirds.

Todaiji Temple

The monuments of ancient Nara

The first capital of Japan, during the years 710 and 784, Nara’s historic monuments range from Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines to the remains of the Imperial Palace. The monuments have been listed by UNESCO for their insight into what life in the Japanese capital was like during the 8th century.

Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites

Tomioka Silk Mill is an historic and cultural silk mill complex which was established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The site was added to UNESCO’s world heritage list in 2014 and consists of four sites that correspond to the different stages of production of silk. The site was the centre of innovation for the production of silk and made Japan the world’s leading exporter of raw silk.

floating torii gate

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

The island of Itsukushima has been a holy place of Shintoism for a long time. It is estimated that the first shrines built on the island were done so in the 6th century. The current shrine dates back to the 12th century and is characterised by its floating torii gate.

Discover Japan’s UNESCO world heritage listed sites on one of our small group journeys or talk to our Asia experts about designing your own private itinerary.