There’s a host of top Historic Sites in Japan to visit and among the very best are Meiji Jingu, Yasukuni Shrine and The Hiroshima Peace Memorial . Other popular sites tend to include Sensoji Temple , The Edo Tokyo Museum and Tokyo National Museum.
We’ve put together an experts guide to Japanese cultural landmarks and monuments, with our top places to visit as well as a full list of Historic Sites in Japan, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best Historic Sites in Japan?
Meiji Jingu is a sacred shrine to Emperor Meiji, modern Japan’s first emperor following the fall of the Samurais and his wife, Empress Shoken. Made up of three sections, Meiji Jingu consists of a series of shrine buildings, inner and outer gardens and a Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery. One enters the Meiji Jingu through two of Japan’s largest gates or “tori”, which date back over 1,700 years and bear the imperial seal.
Visiting Meiji Jingu is a very peaceful experience and one imbued with a great sense of the Japanese culture, particularly when traditional tea ceremonies or one of the many wedding ceremonies held there tales place. It’s an experience in great contrast to the rest of the buzzing city of Tokyo in which Meiji Jingu resides.
The Yasukuni Shrine was originally established by the first emperor of modern Japan, Emperor Meiji in 1869 in honour of those who fought and died for the country.
Approximately 2,500,000 names are enshrined at Yasukuni, amongst them the casualties of wars since 1853, including the Boshin War, the Seinan War, the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars, World War I, the Manchurian Incident, the China Incident and World War II, known in Japan as the Greater East Asian War. The Yasukuni Shrine is part of a six hectare precinct and the shrine itself is surrounded by statues and commemorations to other victims such as war widows, the kamikaze pilots and animals.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial, also known as the A-Bomb Dome or the Genbaku Dome, in Hiroshima in Japan was the only building in the city which survived following the first ever explosion of an atomic bomb. On 6 August 1945, US forces dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It was the first ever use of the ‘A-bomb’.
Originally constructed in 1915, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial building is a domed structure which served as an office building for businesses as well as the Japanese government during the war. Today, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial building forms part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park which also includes a museum. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Sensoji Temple is a Buddhist temple in Tokyo in Japan. Whilst the original structure of the Sensoji Temple is thought to have been built in 628 AD, making it the oldest one of its kind in the city, most of this burned down during World War II. The current temple was rebuilt following the war.
Sensoji Temple is dedicated to Kannon-Bosatsu, the goddess of mercy, whose statue is housed here, although it is not on display. Legend says that the original Sensoji Temple was founded after this statue was caught by two fishermen in 628 AD. Today, the Sensoji Temple is one of Tokyo’s most popular attractions.
The Edo Tokyo Museum in Tokyo in Japan chronicles the history of the city, which was originally known as Edo.
Split into three sections, one devoted to Edo, another to Tokyo and the last named the ‘Comprehensive History Zone’, the Edo Tokyo Museum has over 2,500 artifacts and objects charting the history of Edo and Tokyo, from social aspects to the political and the economic.
English routes run through the museum and it offers a great insight into Tokyo and Japan’s history. One of its more popular exhibits is its reconstruction of the original Nihonbashi Bridge, through which one enters the Edo Tokyo Museum.
The Tokyo National Museum (Tokyo Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan) houses national treasures from Japan and around the Far East and Asia.
Its archaeological finds range from Japanese artwork and archaeological pieces to artefacts from Egypt and India. It also has a collection known as the Horyuji Treasures, made up of over 300 pieces of Buddhist art. The exhibits at the Tokyo National Museum are arranged by category.
Kiyomizudera or Kiyomizu-dera is a famous UNESCO-listed Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. The first temple of Kiyomizudera was founded in 780 AD during the Heian period and designated an imperial temple in 805 AD, although much of this was destroyed and rebuilt in the 1630’s, including its Main Hall. The Main Hall at Kiyomizudera is renowned for hanging over a steep cliff.
Each part of Kiyomizudera is dedicated to a different Buddhist deity. The oldest surviving parts of Kiyomizudera date back to the seventeenth century and include the Niomon Gate and the Unatodome stable.
The Nagasaki Peace Park commemorates the atomic bombing of this Japanese city by American forces in World War II. This occurred on 9 August 1945, three days after the bombing of Hiroshima.
Approximately 74,000 people were killed and 30% of the city was devastated, with many more suffering the effects of radiation poising for decades later.
Today, the Nagasaki Peace Park houses several monuments relating to this event, including one marking the site of the bomb’s hypocentre.
Consisting of the largest wooden building in the world, the temple complex is also home to the world's biggest bronze statue of the Buddha. The temple is the Japanese headquarters of the Kegon school of Buddhism.
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