5 Must Visit Heritage Sites In Japan
Japan is known as the land of sunrises and also a dream place for every traveler. The pioneering skyscraper, the tranquil bamboo forest and serene temple makes it a Paradise on earth. The country is blended with historical cultural heritages and significant Eco-tourism destinations. Its cities are glamorously endowed with an ultra modern view, giving visitors a startling sight discovery. If you have intention to visit Japan, then our list below will bring you to the best places you must visit on your trip.
Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island
Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, the northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island is a terrestrial serial property covering 42,698 ha comprised of five component parts on four different islands (with Tokunoshima Island having two component parts). Influenced by the Kuroshio Current and a subtropical high-pressure system, the property has a warm and humid subtropical climate and is covered mainly with evergreen broadleaved subtropical rainforests.
The formation of the Okinawa Trough in late Miocene resulted in the separation of a chain from the Eurasian Continent, forming an archipelago of small islands. Terrestrial species became isolated on these small islands and evolved to form unique and rich biota. The islands included in the property support many examples of endemic species of terrestrial vertebrate groups and plants that were not able to cross between these islands or adjoining landmasses.
Thus, the property is of high global value for the protection of many endemic and globally threatened species, and contains the most important and significant remaining natural habitats for in-situ conservation of the unique and rich biodiversity of the central and southern part of the archipelago.
The Ogasawara Islands are located in the North-Western Pacific Ocean roughly 1,000 km south of the main Japanese Archipelago. The serial property is comprised of five components within an extension of about 400 km from north to south and includes more than 30 islands, clustered within three island groups of the Ogasawara Archipelago: Mukojima, Chichijima and Hahajima, plus an additional three individual islands: Kita-iwoto and Minami-iwoto of the Kazan group and the isolated Nishinoshima Island. These islands rest along the Izu-Ogasawara Arc Trench System. The property totals 7,939 ha comprising a terrestrial area of 6,358 ha and a marine area of 1,581 ha. Today only two of the islands within the property are inhabited, Chichijima and Hahajima.
The landscape is dominated by subtropical forest types and sclerophyllous shrublands surrounded by steep cliffs. There are more than 440 species of native vascular plants with exceptionally concentrated rates of endemism as high as 70% in woody plants. The islands are the habitat for more than 100 recorded native land snail species, over 90% of which are endemic to the islands.
The islands serve as an outstanding example of the ongoing evolutionary processes in oceanic island ecosystems, as evidenced by the high levels of endemism; speciation through adaptive radiation; evolution of marine species into terrestrial species; and their importance for the scientific study of such processes.
Shirakami-Sanchi World Heritage Property is a wilderness area covering one third of Shirakami mountain range with the largest remaining virgin beech forest in East Asia. The property is located along the Sea of Japan in northern Honshu at an altitude ranging from 100 to 1,243 m above sea level. It is the remnant of the cool-temperate beech forests that have covered the hills and mountain slopes of northern Japan since eight to twelve thousand years ago.
Beech (Fagus) forests are distributed across North America, Europe, and East Asia. Thought to have originated from circumpolar vegetation prior to the Last Glacial Stage, beech forests shifted their distribution from the circumpolar region to the south in the Last Glacial Stage, but in many places mountainous areas stretching east to west blocked the shifts and the vegetation became simplified. However, in Japan, the vegetation retreated to southern Japan maintaining the original diversity of the circumpolar region and re-colonized after the most recent glacial stage. The beech forest of Shirakami-Sanchi is a climax forest established in this manner and maintains various elements of Arcto-Tertiary Geoflora.
Reflecting the distinct heavy-snow environment of the inland areas along the Sea of Japan, a rare climatic condition in the world, Shirakami-Sanchi has forests of monodominant Fagus crenata, a species endemic to Japan. A unique plant community with diverse flora, including undergrowth dominated by evergreen Sasa kurilensis, it is also a habitat for rare bird species such as the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), and large mammals such as the Japanese serow (Capricornis crispus) and Japanese black bear (Ursus thibetanus japonicas), which requires a diverse forest environment including old-growth forest. As these and other species are all interacting as functional elements of the ecosystem, the property keeps the complete ecosystem of stable climax beech forest.
Shiretoko is one of the richest integrated ecosystems in the world. Encompassing both terrestrial and marine areas the property is located in the northeast of Hokkaido and is comprised of a part of the Shiretoko Peninsula, which protrudes into the Sea of Okhotsk and the surrounding marine areas.
The extraordinarily high productivity of the marine and terrestrial component of the property, produced and largely influenced by the formation of seasonal sea ice at the lowest latitude in the northern hemisphere, and the prominent interaction between the marine and terrestrial ecosystems are the key features of Shiretoko. The supply of nutrient-rich intermediate water resulting from the formation of sea ice in the Sea of Okhotsk allows successive primary trophic productions including blooms of phytoplankton in early spring, which underpins Shiretoko’s marine ecosystem. This in turn sustains the food sources for terrestrial species, including the brown bear and Blakiston’s fish-owl, through salmonid species swimming upstream to spawn. The property is globally important for a number of marine species, globally threatened seabirds and migratory birds.
The terrestrial ecosystem has various types of virgin vegetation reflecting the complex topography and weather conditions of the property, and serves as a habitat for a rich and diverse range of fauna and flora including endangered and endemic species such as Viola kitamiana.
Yakushima is a primeval temperate rainforest extending from the centre of the almost round-shaped, mountainous Yakushima Island. Situated 60 km off the southernmost tip of Kyushu Island in the southwestern end of Japanese archipelago, the island is located at the interface of the palearctic and oriental biotic regions. Mountains reaching almost 2,000 m high dominate the island, and the property lies in the centre of the island, with arms stretching south, east and west to the coast.
The island ecosystem of Yakushima is unique in the Northern Hemisphere’s temperate area with successive vertical plant distributions extending from coastal vegetation with subtropical elements, up through a montane temperate rainforest to a high moor and a cold-temperate bamboo grassland at the central peaks.
The montane temperate rainforest of Yakushima is globally distinct, due to its peculiar ecosystem with abundant rheophytes and epiphytes that have adapted to the high rainfall, in excess of 8,000 mm annually, and resulting humid environment. Home to some 1,900 species and subspecies of flora, 16 mammal species and 150 bird species, it exhibits a rich biodiversity including the landscape of the Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), a primeval forest composed of trees called “Yakusugi”, which are over 1,000 years in age.