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10 Incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan

Of course Tokyo is a must-see when traveling to Japan for the first time. 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.

So you know, the awesome feature and Pin image for this post is by Kevin Allekotte.

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1. Ogasawara Islands Miyanohama Beach, Chichijima, Ogasawara, Japan. Miyanohama Beach offers the best off-beach snorkeling on Chichijima. While the entire bay is covered with a coral carpet, snorkeling outbound for a few hundred meters increases visibilty up to 30 meters. View offer the bay towards the Anjima (Brother Islands) and the strait of Anijima. The Ogasawara Islands (Bonin Islands) are located 1,000 km directly south of Tokyo yet administratively they are part of Tokyo and can only be reached by a weekly 25 1/2 hour ferry ride. They offer one of the worlds best spots for diving and snorkeling because of their unique ecology and great distance from the mainland. The water has highest clarity and the sea is full of coral reefs and tropical fishes; humpback whales can be observered in winter and spring, bottleneck dolphins throughout the year. John Beach and Jinny Beach on the south side of Chichijima can only be accessed by a 1 1/2 hour walk or by boat trip. Nikon D2X, 12mm, F8, PL filtered, August 2007
Photo via Flickr by shilo2006
Photo via Flickr by Tanaka Juuyoh

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

Photo via Flickr by Allan Canare

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

Photo via Flickr by peaceful-jp-scenery

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

Photo via Flickr by Sendai Blog

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

Photo via Flickr by Chris Guy

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.

6. Yakushima

Photo via Flickr by Noriteru INO

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 and non-slippery shoes for hiking.

Related: You practically need a month in Japan to see all these sites!
Get your Japan one-month itinerary here.

7. Iwami Ginzan

Photo ©Christian Kaden from
Photo via Flickr by Joel

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

Photo via Flickr by Fredrik Rubensson
Photo via Flickr by the waving cat

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

Photo via Flickr by Ardash Muradian

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

Feature Image via Flickr by Kevin Allekotte

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.

Thanks for stopping by! xo.

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Note: Additional Pinterest images were adapted and modified from the appropriate Creative Commons images. Credit belongs to Chris Lewis (1, 2), August Lee, and shilo2006.

Stella the Travelerette

Saturday 1st of April 2017

That's a great deal! I've been to Japan two times, but I've never seen most of those sights except for the shrine and Mt. Fuji. I would love to see Himeji Castle and Kinkaku-ji especially. But they all sound like wonderful places to visit.


Saturday 1st of April 2017

You've been to Japan twice? That's amazing. Will check out your blog to see what you did there.

Paige W

Friday 31st of March 2017

My cousin lives in LA, so I'll have to let him now about this amazing deal. He's a traveler, and I know he's never been to Japan. I would love to get to Japan some time soon. I know that I would be all over Itsukushima Shrine and Yakushima.


Saturday 1st of April 2017

Yes yes, let him know!


Friday 31st of March 2017

These UNESCO sights are indeed overwhelming! So far, we only visited the Kinkaku-ji Temple, which was great.. But, the Himeji Castle, Mt. Fuji, Yakushima and Itsukushima Shrine look also amazingly beautiful and definitely worth to visit. I will save this list for later, when travelling back to Japan!


Saturday 1st of April 2017

You're so lucky for even having gone to any of them!

Reshma Narasing

Friday 31st of March 2017

Japan is one of the countries that's on the top of my list, for Mount Fuji, cherry blossoms, national parks and the experiences that I keep reading about. A great list of sites that deserve to be on the world heritage list. Thanks for this wonderful post.


Saturday 1st of April 2017

I agree! It makes me want to go even more.


Thursday 30th of March 2017

Each one of them looks so special. The only way to Ogasawara is a ferry , that just adds to the adventure. This is a lovely collection.


Saturday 1st of April 2017

Yes, that ferry looks like an adventure! It might not be for everyone. Thank you.

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Thank you so much for your awesome support.