About World Heritage

Aiming to be registered as a World Heritage site

During the period from the late sixth century to the early eighth century, the unified state of Japan with a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo codes came into being at Asuka-Fujiwara in the southern part of the Nara Basin.

During this period, China, which had unified under the Sui and Tang dynasties and the expansion of the territories it ruled, threatened neighboring states in East Asia (such as Kokuryo, Paekche, and Silla on the Korean Peninsula), making for a highly strenuous situation. These states, to ensure their survival, built centrally administered governments and attempted to absorb the latest in Chinese culture. Consequently, an East Asian culture zone centered on the Chinese dynasty was formed from a wide range of cultural interchanges flourishing among the states, including those on the Korean Peninsula. Against this backdrop, the foundation of a state on the Japanese archipelago was similarly built by combining the traditional culture of the periods up to the Kofun (ancient burial mounds) era with the advanced culture of East Asia and developing a combined culture.

The historical properties of Asuka-Fujiwara consist of archaeological sites such as palaces, castle towns, ritual spaces, gardens, Buddhist temples, and graves that have been left buried, and they are concentrated in a limited area now called “Asuka-Fujiwara.” Archaeological research on and studies of these remains have elucidated the process by which the ancient Japanese state came into being.

In this way, approximately 1,300-year-old memories of the birth of Japan, including remains that have been left underground in good condition, are stamped on the land of Asuka-Fujiwara. These constitute an unparalleled cultural heritage that, by examining the changes in the archaeological remains, enables us to demonstrate cultural exchanges with East Asia and the process of nation building under the influences thereof.

About World Heritage Sites

The term “World Heritage Sites” refers to irreplaceable properties such as buildings, ruins, landscapes, and natural features that have outstanding, universal value to humanity. The term was first used in the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted in 1972. Protecting the precious properties that remain in various parts of the world and handing them down to the next generation is an important issue to be addressed by all of us across the boundaries of nations and ethnic groups. World Heritage sites are classified based on their characteristics into the following three categories:

Cultural Heritages

Buildings, ruins, cultural landscapes, and so forth that have outstanding universal value

Himeji Castle (Japan)
Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur (Arab Republic of Egypt)
Amalfi Coast (Republic of Italy)
Natural Heritages

Geographical or geological features, ecosystems, endangered habitats of animals and plants, and so forth that have outstanding universal value

Shirakami Mountains (Japan)
– Grand Canyon National Park (United States)
– Great Barrier Reef (Commonwealth of Australia)
Mixed Heritages

Sites that have value as both cultural heritages and natural heritages

– Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu (Republic of Peru)
– Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia (Republic of Turkey)
– Tongariro National Park (New Zealand)

As of October 2023, 933 Cultural Heritage sites, 227 Natural Heritage sites, and 39 Mixed Heritage sites have been registered for a total of 1,199 sites. Of these, there are 20 Cultural Heritage sites and 5 Natural Heritage sites in Japan.

Related Links
World Heritage | AGENCY FOR CULTURAL AFFAIRS (bunka.go.jp)
UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Criteria to be selected as a World Heritage site

To be listed on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of the following ten selection criteria contained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention. They must also meet the conditions for integrity and/or authenticity and have an adequate protection and management system to ensure safeguarding of the site under domestic law.

1To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
2To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
3To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
4To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
5To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
6To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);
7To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
8To be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
9To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological or biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
10To contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science and conservation.

 Process up to registration

Acceptance of proposals from the prefecture and municipality in which the properties exist for the addition of properties to the tentative World Heritage List
November 30, 2006We proposed “Asuka-Fujiwara Archaeological Sites of Japan’s Ancient Capitals and Related Properties” as an additional candidate site for the tentative World Heritage List jointly with Nara Prefecture, Kashihara City, Sakurai City, and Asuka Village.
Selection by the Special Committee on World Cultural Heritage after investigations and deliberations
January 19, 2007“Asuka-Fujiwara Archaeological Sites of Japan’s Ancient Capitals and Related Properties” was chosen as an additional candidate site for the tentative World Heritage List.
Approval of the Subdivision on Cultural Properties of the Council for Cultural Affairs
January 23, 2007The results of investigations and deliberations by the Special Committee on World Cultural Heritage were approved by the Subdivision on Cultural Properties of the Council for Cultural Affairs.
Official decision by the Liaison Meeting of Related Ministries and Agencies for the World Heritage Convention
Preparation of a tentative list and its submission to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee
February 1, 2007The Japanese government submitted its tentative list to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to add “Asuka-Fujiwara Archaeological Sites of Japan’s Ancient Capitals and Related Properties” to its tentative list.
NowPreparation of recommendation documents
Decisions on recommendation
The Subdivision on Cultural Properties of the Council for Cultural Affairs (the Agency for Cultural Affairs’ decision on recommendation) / Liaison Meeting of Related Ministries and Agencies for the World Heritage Convention (the government’s decision on recommendation)
Submit recommendation documents to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee
Examination by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), including on-site investigations
Examination and decision by the World Heritage Committee on whether the candidate site should be registered in the World Heritage List