Heritage Holidays: A guide to the ultimate cultural trip to Japan - TravelMole

Heritage Holidays: A guide to the ultimate cultural trip to Japan

Saturday, Apr 06, 2024 0


Japan has an incredibly rich cultural landscape. From its natural beauty to its unique cuisine, there is so much to discover in this amazing country. Thanks to its long and rich history, Japan is home to 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and has 22 elements named as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Here is a round up of some of the most unique UNESCO experiences to add to the itinerary for a heritage-themed holiday in Japan taking in gastronomy, outdoor activity and accommodation.


Hike the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage trail in Wakayama


Celebrating its 20th anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kumano Kodo trail is one of only two pilgrimage routes worldwide to hold the UNESCO designation. Made up of a network of pilgrimage routes linking ancient shrines to one another, visitors start off at the largest torii gate in Japan and end at the tallest waterfall in the country. The trails vary in difficulty and length, ranging from several hours to a few days. The original and main route – the Koyasan Choishi-michi Pilgrimage Trail is the traditional entrance to the religious city of Koyasan stretching 23.5km. The trail is marked by 180 Choishi, which are three metre tall stone pillars in the shape of the five-elements pagoda.


Stay in a traditional gassho-house in Gokayama


Nestled in Toyama Prefecture is Gokayama, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which unveils a rich tapestry of history through its iconic gassho-zukuri farmhouses dating back to the Edo period. These unique structures, shaped like clasped hands in prayer, withstand heavy snowfall and embody the resilience of the local community. Visitors can stay overnight in two of the villages located in Gokayama, Suganuma and Ainokura, immersing themselves into the local traditions and culture. Those seeking a more in-depth look into the heritage of the region can head to the Gokayama Ainokura Folklore Museum which showcases the region’s traditional tools and artefacts which embody Gokayama’s cultural legacy.


Step back in time in Omori


Seemingly untouched by the modern world, Omori is one of Japan’s most well-preserved historic districts. Once home to government officials, samurai and merchants, the small town served one of the richest silver mines in the world – Iwami Ginzan. The mine was officially inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 with its unique landscape and the fact that it co-existed with its natural environment over a long time, being a deciding factor in the awarding of the title. Today, visitors can explore the mine via the Ryugenji Mabu Mine Shaft which showcases the various mining processes used throughout the centuries. Travellers can also make a stop at the nearby World Heritage Centre to learn everything about the local area and its history. Visitors should note that motor vehicles are not allowed in the mine area, however there are bike rental spots in Omori where e-bikes are available for hire.


Discover Japan through flavour


In 2013, Japanese cuisine, washoku, was designated a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Though Japanese food has been popularised all over the world, washoku can only be truly appreciated in Japan. Wa which means “Japan” or “harmony” and shoku which means “food” or “to eat” combine to create dishes of great depth and variety that draw attention to the natural goodness of ingredients. Japan’s deep respect for nature shines through in the way ingredients’ inherent qualities take centre stage in every meal. The ultimate expression of washoku is seen in kaiseki ryori – Japanese-style fine dining – where every dish is luxurious from service to decor and most importantly the food itself. This exquisite dining experience can be found at most traditional restaurants around Japan.

Learn more about Japan NTO

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