The Hidden Gems of Japan

From the bustling city center of Tokyo to the beautifully snow-capped Mount Fuji, Japan is full of postcard-perfect vistas and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Alongside these world-famous sites, there is a selection of lesser-known areas of Japan currently awaiting inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

Home of the Samurai

Image Courtesy of +yooko+ via Flickr

Home of the Samurai

Located in the historical city of Kamakura, the home of the samurai is recognized for its importance to the development of Japanese culture. Between 1185 and 1333, the county was governed by the Kamakura Shogunate, the Japanese feudal military government headed by shoguns. This conqueror/emperor history gave the city of Kamakura the reputation as being the home of the samurai.

Takamatsuzuka Tomb

Thought to have been built during the 7th century, the Takamatsuzuka Tomb is an ancient circular tomb in Asuka Village of the Nara Prefecture. It remained undisturbed and untouched until the 1960s when it was discovered by a local farmer. The tomb is adorned with painted fresco wall painting of courtiers (a person in attendance of the King or other royal patronage) in traditional dress.

The tomb is widely believed to have been created for royal use with Prince Osakabe, Prince Yuge and Prince Takechi amongst the rumored patrons.

Buddha in Kamakura

Image courtesy of Kazuletokyoite via Flickr

National Museum of Western Culture

It may seem unusual for western travelers to visit a museum of Western Culture when visiting the Far East, but the National Museum of Western Culture has accrued a huge collection. The museum and zoo complex plays host to a unique selection of exhibitions and installations including works by Delacroix, Courbet, Manet, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Moreau.

The museum was established in 1959 around the art collection of Matsukata Kojiro and remains the only western art gallery in Japan.


Sado city is the eponymous settlement on the island of Sado, located in the Niigata Prefecture. The city plays a significant part of Japan’s history, with ‘difficult’ or ‘inconvenient’ Japanese figures exiled to the located. The remote island made it an ideal candidate for criminals and citizens considered problematic to be exiled. The first known dissident to be sent to island was a poet, Hozumi no Asomi Oyu, who was believed to have criticized the emperor.

The isolated position of the island makes approach by ship preferable. Cruise travel specialists, Cruise1st, are currently selling cabins for a wide range of Japanese cruises which take in Sado as well as other parts of the country.

Thick Forest

Image courtesy of Chris Lewis via Flickr


One of the Osumi Islands, Yakushima is mostly made up of the Kirishima-Yaku National Park. The island is famous for its high density of flora and lush vegetation, and is home to a number of protected species including loggerhead turtles. With a population of just 13,178 people, the island’s vegetation is complemented by a humid subtropical climate.

Located just across the Vincennes Strait from the Japanese Space Centre on the island of Tanegashima, periodic rocket launches are visible from between the thick, lush vegetation.

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