Books / Reviews

'World Heritage Japan': John Lander photographs the country's UNESCO sites

by Oscar Boyd

Contributing Writer

If there’s a country more infatuated with receiving UNESCO heritage status than Japan, please name it.

World Heritage Japan, by John Lander.
236 pages
RIVER BOOKS, Photography.

From the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido to the low-lying islands of Okinawa (the main attraction of which, Shuri Castle, burned down last month), Japan has conquered the list of heritage classification. Shrines, mountains, great Buddha statues, primeval forests, coal mines, washi paper, washoku and castles, the nation is dotted with heritage sites, documented in this book by Kamakura-based photographer John Lander.

In 236 pages containing 196 photographs, Lander presents a nearly exhaustive picture of these sites, though as he writes in the foreword “a handful … have not been included, due to their inaccessibility or relative lack of impact on me personally.”

What is left is a collection of what Lander believes are the best UNESCO sites in Japan, the ones most worth visiting, seeing or experiencing — from the very tangible shrines of Kyoto, Nikko and Nara, to intangible culture: kabuki, float festivals and court music.

This is not the only photo book to be published on the topic of Japan’s World Heritage sites but it is perhaps the most comprehensive recent publication, both in terms of the number of sites covered, but also due to the detailed explanations that accompany each photograph.

In its most basic interpretation “World Heritage Japan” serves as coffee-table worthy book to flick through, but Lander’s efforts deserve more attention The book seeks both to educate on Japan and inspire travel to its farthest reaches, an open invitation to see things often only half-glimpsed.

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