Japan had the first World Heritage sites in 1993 when UNESCO registered Buddhist monuments in the Horyuji Temple area, Himeji Castle, Yakushima Island and the Shirakami-Sanchi beech tree forest.
Since then the country has added more sites and now boasts the 19 shown on the right.
Natural World Heritage sites show magnificent views of four seasons while cultural World Heritage sites remind people of the deep, unique history of Japan.
The Atomic Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Peace Memorial) is a reminder of a negative legacy that should never be forgotten.
Mount Fuji is a world-renowned mountain praised by ancient poets for its beauty and visited by many foreign tourists.
Horyuji Temple is widely recognized as one of the oldest wooden structures in the world and sits at the heart of Nara, known for its collection of temples and other historic sites.
The Ogasawara Islands are home to many unique species and a mecca of whale watching.
Japan also hopes to add more locations to the list of World Heritage sites. It has 10 sites on the tentative list, including the National Museum of Western Art and churches and Christian sites in Nagasaki, covered below.
Himeji Castle stands as iconic example of Japan’s world heritage sites
Himeji Castle was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, the first in Japan, along with Horyuji Temple and other sites.
The castle is representative of Japan’s early 17th-century architecture, comprising 83 buildings, with an advanced defense system keeping those inside safe.
It is nicknamed Shirasagi-jo (Egret Castle) as it reminds one of the elegant form of a flying egret.
The castle is a masterpiece of construction in wood, combining function with aesthetic appeal, both in its elegant appearance unified by the white plastered earthen walls and in the subtlety of the relationships between the floors and multiple roofs.
The area within the middle moat of the castle is a Special Historic site and five castle structures are National Treasures.
The history of the castle dates back to early 14th century when a samurai built a fortress there. The castle as it appears now was completed in the early 17th century and refurbished in 1964 and 2009. After five years of large-scale renovations, it was reopened to the public in March 2015.
For more information, see www.himejicastle.jp/en/