Cultural Heritage Sites in Japan on the Tentative Lists (9 sites)

Temples, Shrines and other structures of Ancient Kamakura (Kanagawa Prefecture, 1992)

Kamakura was constructed in 1192 by the warrior class (samurai) to be the seat of their political power. It is surrounded by hills to the north, east and west, and faces the ocean to the south. For this reason, it is ideally protected. The samurai government controlled all of Japan from Kamakura for over 150 years, and it became the center of politics, economy and culture. It was the samurai government in Kamakura that had fought the Mongolian Empire off the Japanese archipelago.
This government continued from 1192 to 1868, during which time the cities of Kamakura and Edo were both constructed to serve as places of administration. However, as Edo would later become the modern city of Tokyo, the area around Kamakura is the only remaining place where one can find a group of cultural properties reminiscent of samurai culture.
Today one may see in Kamakura the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu (Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine), which was at the center of the city plan, and Wakamiya Oji, a large avenue that stretches from the front of the shrine. There are a number of temples and temple sites like Kenchoji, Enkakuji, Kotoku-in and Yofukuji, built on the surrounding hillsides, as well as sites of houses belonging to the samurai in power at the time. Also in the surrounding hills are steep pathways, known as the Kamakura Nanakuchi, which served as routes to the outside. Along the ocean front there is Wagae-jima, a port site.

Hikone-Jo Castle (Shiga Prefecture, 1992)

Japanese castle architecture was established in the mid-sixteenth century. Hikone-jo belongs to the golden age of castle architecture of the early seventeenth century. The entire form of the castle is well-preserved, including its defensive sections and the lord's residence. Hikone-jo consists of an inner block, with a hill facing Lake Biwa in its center and surrounded by a moat; and an outer block which surrounds this inner block.
The defensive sections and the lord's residence are built within the inner block, making good use of the natural land formation of the hill. Houses of upper-class samurai-are found in the outer block. A moat also surrounds this outer block. Beyond this moat is the joka-machi: a residential and commercial district for ordinary people. A third moat surrounds this area. In the inner and outer blocks remain castle structures such as the castle tower, yagura and gates, as well as Raku-raku-en and Genkyu-en gardens in the residential section. The two moats are well conserved, as are the stone block walls (ishigaki) and the castle walls.
Although the outermost block, the joka-machi, has become a modern urban district, the layout of the streets retain the framework of the old joka-machi. Conservation measures have been taken today for the inner and outer blocks and parts of the area outside these blocks. Parts of the residential sites have been restored according to old maps, pictures and the results obtained through excavation studies, and these sites now function as museums.

Asuka-Fujiwara: Archaeological sites of Japan’s Ancient Capitals and Related Properties (Nara Prefecture, 2007)

The site is composed of a cluster of archaeological sites of ancient capitals in the Asuka region, where the imperial capital was located from the time of Empress Suiko's enthronement in 592 A.D. to its relocation to Heijō-kyo (Nara) in 710, as well as the scenic areas and surrounding cultural landscape deeply associated with these archaeological sites of ancient capitals. The component features of the site are principally the archaeological remains of palaces and residences of the emperor and imperial court and their related facilities (such as gardens, etc.) covering more than 100 years; the site of Japan's first genuine capital city; and the remains of temples and burial mounds, which were constructed for important personages in and around the city during the period that it functioned as the capital. These remains have been preserved beneath the earth in good condition to the present day, and the structures and objects that have been excavated and surveyed to date convey vital insights into politics, society, culture, and religion during the period of the formation of the ancient Japanese state. Moreover, these ruins tell us about the design philosophy, site planning, and construction technologies of the era, and along with the wall paintings and other artifacts found in specific archaeological remains, they display strong influence from mainland China and the Korean peninsula, providing clear evidence of the significance of cultural and technological contacts between Japan and the other countries of East Asia. Yamato Sanzan, a place of famous scenic beauty intimately associated with these archaeological sites, is also referenced frequently in the poems of the Man'yōshu, Japan's first poetry anthology, and is thus closely linked not only to the representative work of ancient Japanese literature, but also to the influence it exerted upon successive generations of artistic activity. Taken as a whole, the aforementioned archaeological and scenic sites, along with the surrounding natural environment, comprise a historical and cultural landscape of outstanding importance.
Thus, this site, comprised of a cluster of archaeological sites and historic features that originate from close exchange with mainland China and the Korean peninsula, offers physical evidence of the process by which the ancient Japanese state was formed, and constitutes an extraordinarily valuable cultural landscape. All of the above elements support its universal value as cultural heritage.

Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki (Nagasaki Prefecture, 2007)

Christianity was introduced to Japan by Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier in 1549 and spread rapidly in the western part of the nation. The Jesuits established their mission base in Nagasaki, where a port of foreign trade with Portugal was developed. The city of Nagasaki played an important role as a key base for the missionary work in Japan. Churches and Christian culture flourished here, and the Young Delegates of Tenshō set off from Nagasaki in 1582 for Europe, where they had an audience with the Pope. Their visit conveyed the fact that Christianity had taken root in Japan. However, with the Tokugawa shogunate's anti-Christian policy which banned the religion, Christianity was severely suppressed, resulting in a revolt against the regime (the Shimabara and Amakusa Uprisings). Christian historic sites that tell of this period of suppression have been preserved until today. During the prohibition on Christianity, adherents moved to remote islets and islands where they passed down from generation to generation the traditions of baptism and orasho (prayer) and continued in their faith until the ban was lifted in the Meiji period. Nagasaki Prefecture and the surrounding areas are home to many churches built after the long period of suppression. These churches are testimonies of the suppressed adherents' re-acquisition of religious freedom and its long process. These Christian churches are also considered excellent examples of the quality structural design resulting from the fusion of the Western architectural techniques brought by the foreign priests and Japan's traditional architectural techniques. The churches form particular cultural landscapes, associated with distinctive natural settings surrounding them.
Thus, this site has distinctive universal value as it not only presents the footsteps of Christian missionaries in Japan and showcases a model of the fusion of Western and Japanese architectural techniques, but also forms an excellent cultural landscape integrated with its unique surrounding natural environment.

Jômon Archaeological Sites in Hokkaidô, Northern Tôhoku, and other regions (Hokkaidô, Aomori Prefecture, Iwate Prefecture, Akita Prefecture, 2009)

This Jômon properties are a group of unique archaeological sites representing a culture that continuously inhabited the Japanese archipelago for nearly 10,000 years, in a natural environment sustained by the humid temperate climate of the Holocene epoch, living in permanent settlements supported primarily by hunting, fishing, and gathering. This makes it distinct from Neolithic cultures in other regions of the earth which were established on agriculture and animal husbandry. The properties possess outstanding universal value as a testimony of a unique cultural tradition, representing the way in which human beings coexisted with nature over an immense period of time in a specific geo-cultural region of our planet.
Although Jômon culture spread throughout the Japanese archipelago, it displayed particularly noteworthy development in eastern Japan during the era in which broadleaf deciduous forests extended through much of the region, as stable food supplies and the evolution of the techniques used in securing them led to the expansion of areas of permanent settlement, larger communities, and a sudden increase in the number of earthen figurines and stone ritual implements.
Especially in the region centering on Hokkaidô and northern Tôhoku, a number of the distinct cultural zones representative of the Jômon period flourished, now characterized by their pottery types, such as the Entô, Tokoshinai, and Kamegaoka cultures. The Kamegaoka pottery culture in particular spread its influence to distant areas, reaching the Kinki and Chûgoku regions of Honshû Island, and the islands of Shikoku and Kyûshû. The Jômon sites under consideration are located in a variety of different topographical areas from the seacoast to river watersheds and hill country, and include the remains of villages, shell mounds, stone circles, and archaeological sites excavated in wetlands, giving dramatic evidence of the process of establishment of permanent settlements and the adaptation of these cultures to the abundant food resources of the broadleaf deciduous forests, seacoast, rivers, and streams.

Okinoshima Island and Related Sites in Munakata Region (Fukuoka Prefecture, 2009)

This property comprises two important parts: one is Okinoshima where from the fourth to the tenth centuries national religious rituals were conducted to supplicate the gods for the safety of the oceangoing vessels that served as Japan's link to the East Asian mainland, and the other is archaeological sites related to the powerful Munakata clan, local rulers in ancient times who were also involved in priestly and ritual functions. It possesses outstanding universal value as a property where the original forms of Japan's unique nature worship directed towards islands has been preserved, and where the rituals associated with it have continued down to the present day.
Specifically, "Okinoshima Island and Related Sites in Munakata Region" is made up of the isolated island of Okinoshima which floats in the rich natural environment of the Genkai Sea and is one of East Asia's greatest ritual sites, the Tsuyazaki tumulus complex which is burial ground of the Munakata clan that presided over the rituals associated with Okinoshima, and the precincts and buildings of the Munakata Grand Shrine where the religious heritage of Okinoshima has been passed down to the present.
For about six hundred years, beginning in the mid-fourth century, rituals were continued without interruption. Archaeological surveys have thus far identified twenty-three sites with the remains of ritual structures, and discovered a transition from clifftop ritual sites to sites in caves or beneath rocky outcroppings, and then into the open air. Some 80,000 artifacts used as ritual offerings have been discovered, including as gold rings and openwork metal equestrian ornaments manufactured in the Korean kingdom of Silla and fragments of a cut glass vessel from as far away as the Middle East.
These rituals at Okinoshima were presided over by the Munakata clan, who ruled the fisherfolk of the region from a stronghold in what is now the city of Munakata, and whose burial ground is believed to be the Tsuyazaki tumulus complex. Among these tumuli is the Miyajidake Kofun, from which equestrian ornaments and a crown that have been designated National Treasures were excavated.
Some time after this, the form of the earliest shrines began to be established with the founding of the shrines of Okitsu no Miya (on the Okinoshima Island), Nakatsu no Miya (on the Ôshima Island), and Hetsu no Miya (on the main island of Kyûshû). The ancient rituals on Okinoshima came to an end with the cessation of the Japanese embassies to Tang China at the end of the ninth century, but the beliefs associated with Okinoshima continue to serve as a spiritual support for seafarers in the Genkai Sea into the early modern period and beyond, which have been passed down to the present day.
Thus, beginning with the unique rituals conducted in ancient times to pray for the safety of vessels and the success of Japan's diplomatic missions over the seas to the Asian mainland, Okinoshima is an exceptional example in the world of a site preserving in good condition to the present day the forms of worship and faith directed toward an isolated island believed to be a place where gods descended to live in this world.

The Sado complex of heritage mines, primarily gold mines (Niigata Prefecture, 2010)

Over the course of more than four hundred years, gold and silver mining techniques and methods were constantly being introduced to the Sado Mines from both home and abroad and then further developed here. This gave rise to the formation of a cultural tradition based on an evolving set of mining technologies and mine management system. This tradition, preserved in the form of archeological sites, historic structures, and mining towns and settlements, constitutes exceedingly rare physical evidence of human history that can no longer be found at other mines in the Asian region.
The Sado Mines formed an important underpinning for the socio-economic systems of both the Edo shogunate and the Meiji government. Moreover, because the gold produced at the Sado Mines also had a huge impact on the international economy, which was based on the gold standard, this complex of mining-related sites is also extremely important from the perspective of world history.

Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters (Ôsaka Prefecture, 2010)

The Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters were built during the late 4th century to the first half of the 6th century. These immense memorial structures include the largest tumulus (kofun) in Japan in scale and area and are indicative of the process by which the ancient Japanese state was formed. The distribution of smaller tumuli around the massive kofun of the rulers is physical evidence of a unique cultural tradition reflecting the realities of political and social power, and present an outstanding and concrete example of the commonality of this cultural tradition throughout the Japanese archipelago. Immense burial mounds were built in many different parts of the world during the period of the formation of ancient states, and the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, are a cultural property that may be ranked among them.

Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land (extension) (Iwate Prefecture, 2012)

Over the course of the 12th century, Hiraizumi was a political and administrative center established in the northern part of Japan’s main island of Honshû, in what was then a borderland between the territories ruled by Japan’s central government and the regions farther to the north, and whose lively commerce with these regions served as its economic underpinning. The Ôshû Fujiwara clan had its origins in the samurai traditions, and while on the strength of the tremendous wealth accumulated over four generations, the family did not rely solely on its military power. Rather, they built Hiraizumi with the aim of creating the Pure Land—a Buddhist conception of the ideal world. Hiraizumi came into being as the locus of a unique pattern of regional rule with a religious core.
As a political and administrative center, Hiraizumi can be divided into a central area of roughly 190 hectares and a surrounding area of roughly 370 hectares, each of which comprises multiple component parts. The central area includes the temples, gardens, and archaeological sites representing the Buddhist Pure Land, which are already inscribed on the World Heritage List, as well as the archaeological site of the buildings and their compounds serving as both residence and government office that was the backbone of the political and administrative power in the region. In the surrounding area, in addition to the sites of temple founded on pre-existing Buddhist thought that formed the basis for the Pure Land thought, there are also archaeological sites such as the manor that formed the wealth of Hiraizumi as the Pure Land, the workshops that were run with those wealth, and other sites. Among the important points in both the central and surrounding areas there are the existence of the remains of religious structures that were laid out deliberately, demonstrating a unique placement and construction intended to represent the Pure Land as a whole.
These component parts have been well maintained up to the present day, and as such Hiraizumi offers an exceptional example of a political and administrative center that embodies the Buddhist Pure Land.