5 Japan Shrines and Temples Designated As UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Japan has numerous numbers of temples and shrines that are deeply rooted in their history and culture. Each ward has an average of over a hundred temples while some may have over a thousand. Some shrines may be newer than the others but there are also a lot of old and historical shrines that were still preserved until today. Some of these shrines were declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to its historical significance.

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima ShrineThe Itsukushima Shrine of Hatsukaichi City in Hiroshima is a very well known shrine because of its red torii gate that seems to be “floating”. The shrine is built near the shore so when high tide occurs, the shrine looks like it is floating on the surface of the water. Several buildings and possessions inside Itsukushima Shrine are considered as some of Japan’s National Treasure, including the shrine’s complex which is composed of two main buildings: the Honsha shrine and the Sessha Marodo-jinja. In 1996, Itsukushima Shrine was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Horyuji Temple

3 Oldest Wooden Buildings in the World - Horyuji TempleHoryuji Temple is considered one of Japan’s oldest temples and it contains the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures-the central gate (Chumon), the main hall (Kondo), and a five-story pagoda. The temple was designated as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.


KiyomizuderaKiyomizudera was built in 778 AD and is one of the most celebrated temples in Kyoto. The temple has a main hall which was designated as a National Treasure. The most popular part of the temple is the wooden stage which offers an outstanding panoramic view of Kyoto which seems like the temple is rising out of the sea of tall maple trees. IIn 1994, Kiyomizudera was officially declared as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji, and Otsu Cities).

Todaiji Temple

Todaiji templeTodaiji Temple is located in Nara and serves as the prefecture’s landmark. It is also one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples. Built on 752, Todaiji Shrine served as the head temple of the Kegon school of Buddhism. The temple’s main hall, known as the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall), held the record as the world’s largest wooden building until 1998. It houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese as Daibutsu. In 1998, Todaiji Temple, along with seven other sites in Nara, was listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Shrines and Temples of Nikko

Toshogu Shrine in NikkoThe Shrines and Temples of Nikko as a whole are composed of 103 buildings or structures, including its natural surrounding. For centuries,  the Shrines and Temples of Nikko have been considered a sacred site, known for its architectural and decorative masterpieces. They are closely associated with the history of the Tokugawa Shoguns. Between 1603 to 1605, Tokugawa Ieyasu became the first shogun of Tokugawa.

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