Thanks to its rich history and nature, Japan has already been recognized as a country with many UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites with 14 designated destinations. An additional two locations came into the international spotlight when they were added to the list this June.
Hiraizumi, a Northern Metropolis
Hiraizumi may seem like just one of the many historic temple towns, but founded in the 12th century, this was the political and commercial center of Japan’s northern region. This time, UNESCO recognized the legacy of the Fujiwara family.
The Fujiwara’s rivaled the capitol in Kyoto and established a northern political and cultural power hub with the paramount art and architectural techniques of that time, and the cultural and historic significance and appreciation of the remaining pieces. The most significant sign of the past political power in Hiraizumi is Chusonji-Temple, an elaborated structure in such a rich design from its heyday. Konjikido, literally translated as Golden Hall, has fortunately been preserved – because among all the magnificent constructions of a 20-year project, it is the only original structure to survive fires and wars. Protected inside a later-constructed concrete pavilion, Konjikido is a must-see. The structure is covered with gold leaf inside and out and is full of Buddhism statues in the alter – which portray the Fujiwara Lord’s aspiration for Buddhism and top-quality designs.
Although Hiraizumi is located in the northeast region of Japan, fortunately the March earthquake didn’t affect the area at all. The international attention this region has received due to the earthquake has become a great momentum for the region’s tourism recovery. Along with the Shirakami Mountain Range that was designated as a world heritage site in 1993, Hiraizumi has become one of the highlights of the northern Japan travel.
Tokyo’s Hidden Beaches, the Ogasawara
The Ogasawara Islands, also known as The Bonin Islands, is an archipelago of over 30 small subtropical islands located 1,000km (620 miles) directly south of Tokyo. UNESCO found these hidden islands under Tokyo’s municipality as a natural sanctuary for a unique ecosystem. Consisting of over 30 tiny islands, including well-known Iwojima, the Ogasawara Islands cherish very lightly worn jungles and infinitely blue beaches. The islands create a perfect environment for a very rich ecosystem which includes: one-of-a-kind mammals, over 400 native plants and several ocean species that create one of the world’s rarest scuba diving spots. Ogasawara is nicknamed the Oriental Galapagos.
As the Ogasawara becomes more well-known among outdoor lovers, there have been talks on building an airport to improve the weekly ferry shuttle between Tokyo’s downtown port and Chichi-jima Island, the most populated among the Ogasawara. However, the high vulnerability of the area’s untouched, unique ocean life and ecosystem keeps the islands airport free. It also makes the islands’ wealth of nature even more attractive – as a hidden gem of Japan.
Wanting to experience the ancient wonders of Japan for yourself? Learn more about small group Japan tours or custom travel to Japan organized by our Asia Travel Specialists. Visit Asia Transpacific Journeys online or call 800-642-2742 for more information.