There are so much place to go when you're traveling to Japan. But if you want to truly cross off your “bucket list”, then you should visit Japan's UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Generally, Japan is not short of outstanding cultural and natural sites. In fact, currently they have 22 World Heritage sites: 18 cultural ones and 4 natural ones.
You probably don't have time to visit all of them in a single trip to Japan. So, we've compiled only 5 latest Japan's cultural World Heritage sites (most natural World Heritage sites have been UNESCO’s list for more than 5 years ago, there's a chance you've been there already).
Here they are:
Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites
Located in Gunma prefecture, this site was added on UNESCO's World Heritage list in 2014. Tomioka Silk Mill, which was established in 1872, has crucial role in establishing the textile industry as Japan's major industry for many decades into the 20th century.
As the model factory of Japan's silk industry, the factory complex is well preserved until now. Thus, we can witness Japan's first modern silk factory close to its original state.
Meiji Industrial Revolution
The collection of preserved historical sites spread across eight prefectures in Japan was added on UNESCO World Heritage list in 2015. It highlights Japan's rapid development into an industrial power in the second half of the 19th century. Coal mining, cannon forging, iron and steel production, and shipbuilding are all parts of Meiji Industrial Revolution.
You can visit one of more than 20 sites of Meiji Industrial Revolution in the following prefecture: Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, Iwate, Saga, Shizuoka, and Yamaguchi.
National Museum of Western Art
If you're into art, this one must be your number one destination when you're in Japan. Added on UNESCO World Heritage list in 2016, it's located at Ueno Park in Tokyo.
The museum was built in 1959 by Le Corbusier (the famous French architect who also worked on the design of the UN Headquarters building). UNESCO put it in World Heritage list because it's part of "The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier”.
The museum has 58-piece Rodin collection on display. Just by standing in front of the museum, you can be amazed by the Thinker and the Gates of Hell.
Okinoshima Island and Related Sites
Possibly the only site that we can't visit, unless there's a change in the regulation. Okinoshima Island is a sacred island about 60 kilometers off the coast of Kyushu.
The remote, small island is open for the shrine's priests. However, during an annual festival in May, it's open for public. But the festival is not that easy to join. Only selected male visitors can come, and they had to fully undress and purify themselves in the sea before stepping onto Okinoshima Island. Dare to do it?
It might be worth the hassle, though. Okinoshima Island is very well-preserved because of the strict rules and remoteness. Even the annual festival (that letting public visiting the island) could be cancelled in the future.
Hidden Christian sites
The most recent on UNESCO World Heritage list (only added in 2018). The sites are located in Amakusa islands and Nagasaki prefecture.
Little did we know, Japan banned Christianity in 1603-1867. Thus, local devotees (hidden Christians) have to hide in remote areas and on isolated islands. They continued practicing their religion there in secret for over two centuries.
Interestingly, the hidden Christian sites still survive today. Those are Goto Islands, Hirado Island, Hara Castle Ruins, Kuroshima Church, Sotome, Oura Cathedral, and Sakitsu Village.