International

A GUIDEBOOK TO ALL WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN JAPAN: PART I

There are a lot of sites in the entire world that come under the list of UNESCO World heritage sites. These are significant creations but to surpass the terms and conditions of heritage sites is not that easy. Any building which has been there since ages cannot be a heritage site and can’t be recognized as one. There is a list of certain trials and tribulations, after checking who can be recognized as one.

But, when it comes to Japan, there is a huge list of such places as people of Japan have restored their culture and preserved that as one of their own. Though they are very disciplined and very careful about these places and their history and won’t give it away for anything. It is still sad that many wonderful sites in Japan have been recognized among the world heritage sites in the last decade. We would like to know what took that time for these places to be recognized and what unparalleled places are these which did not only stand the test of time but are now widely known.

 

MOZU-FURUICHI KOFUNGUN OR ANCIENT TUMULUS CLUSTERS 

 

A group of great history and the ruins of civilization spread across the acres of land on the land of Japan. Its huge structure and the meaning is depicted only from the air but of course, if you won’t go near it, understanding and knowing it from a deeper perspective all wrapped in the curtains of history, you won’t know why it has been in the list of World Heritage sites. Talking about the whole site which has been divided into two different segments but looks like one if you see it from the air or in many of the pictures of it.

Talking about the first one that is the Mozu Tombs is a group of megalithic tombs in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. This is the largest rectangular creation that you will see on this piece of land and that is how you will recognize it. These are Kofun or tombs or in general language, we can call them shrines of the significant graves of the most prominent once royal family. But how do these graves or kofuns or we call them as headstones in our language define the hierarchical structure of the royal family? The answer is by the size of the kofun stone and the engravings done on them. Historically speaking, they represent a cultural tradition which is an expression of forms and designs of kofun of the sociopolitical hierarchical order and the link that was prevalent during that period of that region.

The other section of this region is Furuichi Kofungun which is a group of one hundred and twenty-three kofun or tumuli in Fujiedera and Habikino, Osaka, Prefecture, Japan. Thirty-one of the burial mounds are keyhole-shaped, thirty round, forty-eight rectangular, and the further fourteen are of the indeterminate shape. This site has been under the list of world heritage sites since 6 July 2019. The different shapes of the kofuns determine the graves of different statuses of men back in those times. We don’t know which shape determines what status but we can know more about it from the common people once we visit it. Who will know history more than the people living in that area?

 

HIDDEN CHRISTIAN SITES 

 

Another beautiful Huan creation which comes under the list of Japan’s beautiful world heritage sites is Hidden Christian Sites. Located in the Nagasaki and Kumamoto prefectures in the northwestern part of Kyushu Island of the Japanese archipelago, the Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region”. It is not just a monument to watch but this complete area covers cultural heritage in itself. It comprises 12 components, made of 10 villages, one castle, and one cathedral which is said to be built somewhere around the 17th and 19th centuries. The history of this region tells the tales of free will and belief. When the Japanese were under the pressure of converting themselves out of Christianity for 2 complete centuries. Here resided a group of Japanese who practiced Christianity to the fullest and saved their religion. Hence, they established a cathedral and a hidden church from the rest of Japan. The carvings on the walls, the rock structures, and the deep caves along with monks living here and the idols made all around the area will tell you all those stories by themselves.

No wonder, this place tells the evolution of mankind and how beautifully they secured their place in history, both preserving it and practicing it. This one deserved its place on the list and for all the right reasons.

 

SACRED ISLAND OF OKINOSHIMA AND SITES IN MUNAKATA REGION

 

Would you believe if I tell you that people of Japan worship an entire island because they consider it sacred? But that’s absolutely true, they do. And the name of this island is Okinoshima which is 60 km off from Kyushu island. If we look at it from the perspective of World Heritage sites, then there are associated sites of Munakata Region as well, which are as exemplary to visit like the island of Okunoshima.

The old rock temples, the marbled floors, perfect landscapes surrounding them tell the story of the culture of Japan. It has been suggested to visit during the time of festivities which are done here in a particular season. And there are interesting regional stories behind them as well. Like any other culture, people of Japan believed in Sun- Goddess and is considered that the goddess spawned upon the three daughters of Amaterasu on the consumption of giant swords.

 

THE ARCHITECTURAL WORK OF LE CORBUSIER

 

Though Japan has embraced its culture and history in the best way possible when the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier though that even the architecture of this land needs a slight touch of the modern design, he gave his dreams a shape of a building which is a refreshment to see in the land of Japan among all the shrines and temples. It has also been counted among the list of world heritage sites. 

It is a project or cluster of 17 different buildings designed by the architect himself. According to the architect, this idea of his response to the need of the society of Japan and thus displaying the global range of art, style, and design. All the different buildings, with white walls, and very different designs from any other buildings in Japan will promise to make you feel as if you are not on the land of Japan anymore.

 

SITES OF MEIJI’S INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

 

There are very few countries in the entire world that have shown the kind of industrial development that Japan has. A country like Japan that has been very much attached to its culture and way of living in the centuries has its history of overcoming the fears and limitations and to become one of the most powerful forces to stabilize themselves as an industrial economy. But taking into consideration the strength, perseverance and hard work of the Japanese people into the note, the industrial revolution in these lands left a mark and determined that there were some sites which were inscribed by the UNESCO committee and hence became a marvelous sight to see. Sites of Meiji’s Industrial Revolution is one of those places which tells you the history of the Japanese culture. 

The site is located in the southwest of Japan and consists of 23 components in total in 8 discreet areas of the region. Once the Japanese understood the value of coal and steel, it led to rapid industrialization between the 19th century and the early 20th century. If you want to know what did they exactly prepare out of these sites, then the answer would be everything that involved shipbuilding and coal mining particularly to meet the defense needs. But the journey was not that easy, rather it was divided into phases and they faced a lot of challenges through that.

You can know the rest of the history when you visit there. As the industries, big machines, textiles, and some other equipment and establishments remain intact there. When it comes to determining a UNESCO site, making and sustaining culture is tier top priority and this beautiful industrial site provides testimony for that.

 

FUJISAN, THE SACRED PLACE

 

You might have watched a ton of movies and documentaries where the art and culture of Japan have not only been appreciated but also been acknowledged for its values which consist of peace and harmony. But the Fuji mountain which is the tallest mountain in Japan needs no introduction, it has been a symbol of Japan from quite the centuries. Though it has been included among the world heritage sites in 2013 the snow-capped, stratovolcano surrounded with cone, pine, and fir trees all-around have been the resting place for many Buddhism communities for years.

Though there are a lot of villages and shrines among the forests at the foot of the mountains, Fuji is primarily known as a sacred place because it has provided a home to a lot of ancient clans throughout the centuries and hence gave space to multiple pilgrims to emerge. Because of the lake, an intermittent volcano at the top, and forests throughout the slope, the land was very rich in minerals and still is. There is no doubt that people have found it a sacred place to live and to practice their natural culture here.

 

HIRAIZUMI TEMPLES

 

It is known as the historic monument and the sites of Hiraizumi and is considered as the representation of Buddhist Pure Land. It consists of temples, gardens, and archeological sites. The surroundings consist of all the landscapes that you can imagine depending upon the season that you visit this place. There is a lake flowing beside, mountains behind that, a forest on the other side. What makes this place worth visiting are the temples all around which are made in a pure Japanese style of architecture and design. They have sloping roofs and complete structures made of wood. The carvings on the wall of these temples are a sight to behold. There is no other place better than this to dive deep into the culture of Japan. The architectural sites add to the beauty of these surroundings. But every wall tells the story of the history here.

This beautiful place has collected its history through centuries as it was made, destroyed, and again made and preserved here. From the late Heian period, the four generations of the great Samurai have protected this place from war, fire, and outrage but when they realized that they cannot save themselves and had to participate in the war. This place became more significant as political, military, commercial, and cultural centers.

 

SHIRETOKO

 

It is not only a world heritage site but is very famous among tourists and visitors for its pure landscapes and the thriving flora and fauna that it offers in its lap. The picturesque views all around you as long as your eyes go can make you feel like you have just entered heaven. And far away from the hustle of humankind, this place stands the true inspiration that if nature was being preserved the way it was, how beautiful earth could look like. It is a complete national park and covers most of the Shiretoko Peninsula, located at the northeastern tip of the Haikedo island in Japan, it has every single view that you desire to watch while you live.

You can understand it has preserved its beauty as it is one of the remotest portions in the area of Japan and is only accessible via foot or boat. It has exquisite creatures all sound and different kinds of plants and trees that you are only going to find in this fertile land. There is a waterfall, and a mountain called Rausu mount. There is a park as well for recreational purposes which has recreational activities, a restaurant, and a gift shop so that you can take as many memoirs as you want of this pretty place.

SHRINES AND TEMPLES OF NIKKO

 

You would have understood by now that Japan has dozens of shrines and temples as the people of Japan prefer to preserve their history and culture in the best way possible. Shrines and temples of Nikko are one of the most significant places in Japan. Located in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan where its lush green surroundings compliments and adds to the 103 architecturally designed temples all around the landscape. The place Tochigi is quite famous among the tourists visiting here and so are the temples. Made mostly of wood but colored differently adds a rainbow stroke to the surroundings.

There are tall temples, with fine structures and long canopy, seeing which you can only wonder how they were being made. The fine cravings on the entrance, the walls, and the inside of these temples can recite the poem of how and why they were being made. You are sure to remain all spellbound of these idols in the walls of the temples. These temples range from the 15th century to the 18th century. Therefore, if you visit this place, you might experience a walk through different dimensions of time. 

 

HISTORIC MONUMENTS OF ANCIENT NARA

 


When we say historic monuments of Ancient Nara we are not talking about a single place but it is a city in itself. Among all the historical monuments, in the city of Nara have been considered as National Treasures and important cultural properties by the Japanese Government. These monuments consist of 5 Buddhist temples, one Shinto shrine, one is a palace, and one a primeval forest.  The rest are 23 buildings showing the evolution of the cultures of the city and 56 other cultural properties. These buildings are mainly from the Nara and the Asuka period.