Japan Data

Christian Sites Selected for UNESCO List: An Overview of World Heritage Sites in Japan


The Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region have been registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. This is the twenty-second Japanese entry on the prestigious list.

The Hidden Christians Who Secretly Practiced Their Faith

On June 30, 2018, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO announced the official registration of the Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region on its World Heritage list.

The locations include Ōura Church in Nagasaki; the remains of Hara Castle, where Christian farmers were besieged during the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637–38; and Sakitsu in Amakusa, a fishing village that was once a center for the faith. The UNESCO advisory body the International Council on Monuments and Sites commented that the sites bear testimony to the unique cultural tradition nurtured by Hidden Christians in the Nagasaki region who secretly practiced their faith despite a ban on Christianity.

Japan now has 22 World Heritage sites, including its four World Natural Heritage sites.

The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (“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 Prefecture) and Himeji-jō Castle (Hyōgo). The seventeenth such site was registered in 2017, with the recognition of the Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region. 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 2018, there are 1,073 World Heritage sites in the globe (832 World Cultural sites, 206 World Natural sites, and 35 mixed properties); a total of 193 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)
Kiyomizudera Night & Day (360˚ Panorama)
December 1994
The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama (Gifu and Toyama)
World Heritage Site Shirakawa-gō: Snow-covered Roofs in a Traditional Mountain Village (360°/Gigapixel)
December 1995
Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Hiroshima)
World Heritage: Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) (360° Panorama)
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park: A Space to Remember the World’s First Atomic Bombing
December 1996
Itsukushima Shintō Shrine (Hiroshima)
World Heritage: Itsukushima Shrine (Time-Lapse Video)
Miyajima: The Wonders of Japan’s Island Shrine (360˚ Panorama)
December 1996
The Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara (Nara)
Nara’s Kasuga Shrine: A Graceful Presence with a Millennium of History
Ancient Messengers: The Timeless Deer of Nara (Photos)
December 1998
The Shrines and Temples of Nikkō (Tochigi)
Yōmeimon Gate Reopens to Public at Nikkō’s Tōshōgū Shrine
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)
World Heritage: Hiraizumi (Video)
World Heritage in Hiraizumi: Iwate’s Chūsonji Embodies a Buddhist Realm
World Heritage in Hiraizumi: Mōtsūji’s Pure Land Paradise
World Heritage in Hiraizumi: Mount Kinkei and the Ruins of Kanjizaiōin and Muryōkōin
June 2011
Fujisan—Sacred Place and Source of Artistic Inspiration (Yamanashi and Shizuoka)
Mount Fuji Through the Lens of Ōyama Yukio (Photos)
Mount Fuji: Where the Spirits Dwell (Photos)
Japan’s Highest Shrine: Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha
Mount Fuji in Edo Arts and Minds
June 2013
Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites (Gunma)
UNESCO Listing for Tomioka Silk Mill: Meiji-Era Structure a Symbol of Japan’s Modernization
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)
Gunkanjima: A Sacred Site of Relics (360° Panorama)
Takeaways from the World Heritage Listing for Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution
July 2015
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement (National Museum of Western Art; Tokyo)
Tokyo Art Museum Recognized in UNESCO List
July 2016
Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region (Fukuoka)
Sacred Island Selected for UNESCO List
Fukuoka’s Munakata Taisha: A Trio of Shrines and Their Precious Artifacts
July 2017
Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region(Nagasaki and Kumamoto)
Exploring Nagasaki’s Gotō Islands and the History of the Hidden Christians
The Natural Beauty and Historic Churches of the Gotō Islands (Video)
Sakitsu: A Simple Fishing Village Becomes a World Heritage Site
June 2018
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 former Nokubi Church among the remains of villages on Nozaki Island in Ojika, Nagasaki Prefecture, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region. Photograph by Kuroiwa Masakazu.)

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