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10 Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites In Japan

Castles World Heritage Himeji Castle Miyajima Yakushima Mount Fuji Shoryudo Himeji Hiroshima Okinawa Gifu Hokkaido Nagasaki Chubu Chugoku Kyushu Tokai Region

Japan is a country saturated with culture, nature and amazing heritage. There is a total of 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites currently registered in Japan: 17 cultural and 4 natural. Here are 10 of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan you definitely have to visit in your lifetime!

10. Gunkanjima — the battleship island like no other

The site of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2015. This Heritage Site comprises a total of 11 sites and one of the most popular destinations is Gunkanjima. Located off the coast of Nagasaki, there are only 5 cruise companies that are permitted to sail to this island. Here, you can view the remnants of the island that once used to be a key component of Japan’s industrialisation. It is highly recommended that you book your tickets in advance as it is extremely popular.

9. The sacred Yakushima Island

Yakushima Island was designated as a Natural Heritage Site in 1993 due to the unique flora and fauna that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The nature experience there is something that you cannot have elsewhere, and endemic animals such as the Yakusika Deer can be found on the island. Cedar trees that are more than 1,000 years old can be viewed, and you can also admire the beautiful view of the island from the highest mountain in Yakushima that is 1,936 meters (1.2 miles) tall!

8. The magic of Ryukyu Kingdom - Okinawa

The Gusuku Sites and related properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu were selected as a World Heritage Site in 2000. Okinawa, or formerly known as Ryukyu, used to be an independent kingdom before it became part of Japan. Okinawa hence has its own very unique culture and dialect. The various historical sites of the Ancient Kingdom that you can visit in Okinawa include sites such as the Shurijo Castle and other castle remains such as Nakagusuku.

7. Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima

You’ve probably seen a photo of this iconic Torii Gate from the Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima while planning your trip to Japan. Sure enough, Itsukushima Shrine is another popular destination in Japan. It was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1996 and serves as a holy place for Shintoism. At Miyajima, not only can you experience the culture of Japan, you will also be welcomed by amazing natural landscapes. The sunset view at the Itsukushima Torii Gate is the most famous iconic image from there and depending on the day and the tide, you will enjoy taking the different scenes of it in.

6. The natural landscape of Shiretoko Peninsula, Hokkaido

The Shiretoko Peninsula became a Natural Heritage Site in 2005. Located in Hokkaido, the most northern prefecture of Japan. Shiretoko is famous for its rich nature and landscape that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world. Beautiful lakes like the Rausu Lake serve as the perfect spot for nature watching, and trekking through the greenery is simply amazing. Shiretoko may not be the most convenient place in Japan to visit, but it definitely is worth the travel.

5. Shirakawago - the unique village found nowhere else in the world

Shirakawago is also one of the popular destinations in Japan. It was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1995. This village, located deep in the mountains, is best known for its unique houses with tall, pointed roofs. The roofs were designed as such to cater for the harsh winter environment. Shirakawago is best known for the illumination that takes place in winter, where the magical village will be lit up by warm lights. The spectacle, coupled with snow falling from the sky, is definitely worth a visit.

Head over to Trip101 below for the Top 4 selections!

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