Japan Data

Tokyo Art Museum Recognized in UNESCO List: An Overview of World Heritage Sites in Japan


The National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo has been recognized by UNESCO as the country’s latest World Heritage site, gaining the designation as part of an international collection of architectural works by Le Corbusier. It is the twentieth place in Japan to be added to the prestigious list.

Tokyo’s First World Cultural Heritage Site

On July 17, 2016, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO announced the official registration of “The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement” on its World Heritage list. The 17 locations across seven countries include one in Japan: the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo.

The museum is Japan’s sixteenth World Cultural Heritage site and the first in Tokyo. This brings the country’s total number of World Heritage sites to 20, including its four World Natural Heritage sites.

The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (better known as the World Heritage Convention), adopted at the 1972 General Conference of UNESCO, called for a list to be created of natural and cultural sites of “outstanding universal value.”

In December 1993, Japan’s first World Cultural Heritage sites were registered: the Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryūji Temple area (Nara) and Himeji-jō Castle (Hyōgo). The fifteenth such site was registered in 2015, with the recognition of Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution (spread across eight prefectures). The country’s first two World Natural Heritage sites were also recognized in December 1993: Yakushima (Kagoshima) and Shirakami-Sanchi (Aomori and Akita). These were followed by Shiretoko (Hokkaidō) and the Ogasawara Islands (Tokyo), bringing the total number of sites to four.

As of June 2016, there are 1,031 World Heritage sites around the globe (802 World Cultural sites, 197 World Natural sites, and 32 mixed properties); a total of 192 countries have signed the World Heritage Convention.

World Heritage Sites in Japan Year listed
World Cultural Heritage Sites (Prefecture)
Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryūji Temple Area (Nara) December 1993
Himeji-jō Castle (Hyōgo) December 1993
Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto and Shiga) December 1994
The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama (Gifu and Toyama) December 1995
Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Hiroshima) December 1996
Itsukushima Shintō Shrine (Hiroshima) December 1996
The Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara (Nara) December 1998
The Shrines and Temples of Nikkō (Tochigi) December 1999
Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryūkyū (Okinawa) December 2000
Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (Nara, Wakayama, and Mie) July 2004
Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine (Shimane) June 2007
Hiraizumi—Temples, Gardens, and Archaeological Sites (Iwate) June 2011
Fujisan—Sacred Place and Source of Artistic Inspiration (Yamanashi and Shizuoka) June 2013
Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites (Gunma) June 2014
Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining (Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Kagoshima, Yamaguchi, Iwate, and Shizuoka) July 2015
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement (National Museum of Western Art; Tokyo) July 2016
Natural World Heritage Sites (Prefecture)
Yakushima (Kagoshima) December 1993
Shirakami-Sanchi (Aomori and Akita) December 1993
Shiretoko (Hokkaidō) July 2005
Ogasawara Islands (Tokyo) June 2011
(Banner photo: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, which was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site as part of "The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier" on July 17, 2016. © Jiji; courtesy of the NMWA.)

World Heritage UNESCO