Temples In Japan’s Earthquake-Hit Region Awarded UNESCO World Heritages Status
Resident’s of Japan’s earthquake-hit Tohoku region were given reason to celebrate on the weekend when UNESCO granted Hiraizumi’s Buddhist temples and related properties Cultural World Heritage Site status on Saturday 25 June. On Friday 24 June, UNESCO had granted the Ogasawara Islands off Tokyo Natural World Heritage site status, meaning Japan now has sixteen locations registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The historic Hiraizumi area in Iwate Prefecture features a cluster of temples and ruins left by the Oshu Fujiwara warrior family that ruled Japan’s Tohoku region from the 11th to the 12th centuries. Hiraizumi’s most famous attraction is Chusonji, a Buddhist temple established in 850 with a stunning Golden Hall.
Hiraizumi is located 40 kilometres inland from the Pacific Coast, which was devastated by the tsunami on 11 March, and almost two hundred kilometres north of the Fukushima nuclear plant. The earthquake’s tremors caused damage on some roads and buildings around Hiraizumi, but the temples themselves escaped damage.
“Hiraizumi is Japan’s 12th cultural heritage site and the first in Tohoku, the region of Japan that was so badly affected by the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March. Thankfully the beautiful temples of Hiraizumi escaped undamaged, yet visitors have dropped by as much as 80%. UNESCO awarding Hiraizumi World Heritage status is an encouraging symbol of recovery for the people of Tohoku and it is hoped it will encourage people to start visiting the region again,” said Kylie Clark of Japan National Tourism Organization’s London office.
The Ogasawara Islands are an archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands 1,000 kilometres south of Tokyo. They are home to over 100 kinds of indigenous plants and more than 14 kinds of animals. The Ogasawaras are popular for whale watching, scuba diving, swimming with dolphin, surfing, kayaking, snorkelling, bird watching and hiking. The islands are now Japan’s fourth World Natural Heritage site and the first to be listed in six years since the Shiretoko area in eastern Hokkaido in 2005.
This article was first published on the Japan National Tourism newsletter.
Special thanks to Kylie Clark of the Japan National Organization’s London office.
For information about Japan ’s other World Heritage Sites, visit www.seejapan.co.uk.