Tag Archives: Shirakawa-go

Japan’s Top World Heritage Sites

Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto

I haven’t been to all of Japan’s 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites, but they’re on my list. Kyoto, of course, is king, with an astounding 17 locations that make up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. But Japan’s World Heritage sites are varied and vast, with a list that includes villages, islands, ancient shrines and temples, mountains, a castle, a silver mine and even a bombed-out shell of a building that serves as a somber reminder of Hiroshima’s 1945 atomic blast. What follows are my reviews of Japan’s top World Heritage sites, based on my 30-some years traveling around Japan as author of various Frommer’s guides, including Frommer’s Japan. Whereas some sites are worth seeing if you’re in the vicinity (such as Tokyo’s Museum of Western Art, designed by Le Corbusier and added to the list in 2016), most are worth going out of your way for. And some are so spectacular they’re worth the trip to Japan just to see them.

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Flash from the Past


A thatched house in Shirakawa-go, 2009

A thatched house in Shirakawa-go, 2009

Before I became absorbed with the relentlessly hard work of researching and writing guide books, I wrote travel articles that were published in newspapers across the country. Most of them appeared during the dark ages of print only, lost over time with the disintegration of newsprint. Recently I’ve discovered that some of them are now online, making them a nostalgic trip to the past for me and a history lesson, perhaps, for others. Here are a few.

The Past Lives on in Shirakawa-go, about a small Japanese village before it was “discovered” and declared a World Heritage Site, published in the Baltimore Sun on July 7, 1991

Imbibing at Bremen’s Medieval Wine Cellar, published in the Los Angeles Times on May 10, 1987

 Merida is the First Stop on the Yucatan, published in the Toledo Blade on January 24, 1982

Worpswede’s transition from rugged moorland to a place of art, about a town in northern Germany, published in The Christian Science Monitor on March 24, 1980. Note, however, that there’s a typo, with a date that reads 1985 instead of 1895. The mistake is undoubtedly (!) that of the travel editor or poor soul whose job it was to typeset everything. Back in those days, all my submissions were typed pages, mailed by post from Germany. Of course, it was so long ago, I was only a mere child….

Shirakawa-go, 2009

Shirakawa-go, 2009

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