Japan always brings a smile to my face.
I´m not sure why.
It´s kind of a natural reaction, some sort of biological phenomenon that affects me since very young.
You say Japan, I smile.
Can’t help it.
That reaction compelled me to learn Japanese since the age of 18 and it made me love that country and its people even more!
But on that dreadful 11 of March 2011, I watched the terror that washed over the peaceful people of Japan
And like the rest of the planet, I could not believe my eyes seeing those horrific scenes being played by the media over and over again.
The long-lasting effects of a disaster of epic proportions
Eight years after that devastating catastrophe that left 19,000 people dead there still are 2600 people missing and 500,000 persons remain displaced, about half of them evacuees from areas near the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.
But eight years later, the prefecture of Fukushima is trying very hard to get back on its feet.
According to government sources, the area’s fruits and vegetables are edible and radiation levels are comparable to places like Hong Kong and London.
And while there’s no denying that a massive decontamination effort is still underway, coverups and denials from government officials has been the norm throughout the cleaning process.
Further, the very serious problem of discrimination against evacuees from Fukushima – many former residents fear their children will find it hard to find spouses due to worries over potential long-term harm from radiation.
Children are often labelled as radioactive and left as pariahs.
The struggles to rebuild and to cope with the nuclear disaster are only the most immediate issues Japan is grappling with as it searches for new drivers for growth as its export manufacturing lags and its society ages.
The backbone industries of fish processing and tourism were wrecked by the tsunami or paralysed by the nuclear crisis.
Foreign visitor numbers declined for months in a row after the meltdown.
To boost tourism the Japanese Tourism Agency announced in October 2011 a plan to give 10,000 round-trip air tickets to Japan away in order to encourage people to visit Japan.
In 2012 free tickets were offered on condition that the promotion winners would write online about their experiences in Japan.
In September 2011 some 539,000 foreign people visited Japan, this was 25 percent down compared with the same month in 2010.
This decline was largely attributed to the Fukushima nuclear accident, but also the stronger yen made a visit to Japan more expensive.
On December 26, 2011, The Japan Tourism Agency reported on their site that the “Fly to Japan! Project”, which would have given out 10,000 round-trip tickets to Japan, was not approved by the government for fiscal year 2012.
However, tourist numbers did pick up and the Japan National Tourism Organisation reported a total increase in the number of arrivals in 2012 of 34% compared to the previous year.
Today, according to the same site, the estimated number of international travellers to Japan in June 2019 was about 2.9 million (+6.5% from the previous year), with an increase of about 170 thousand visitors – the highest record for June ever!
A much brighter outlook for Japanese tourism
So, what seemed to be a fairly bleak situation, is changing dramatically.
And I’m so thankful for that!
But I’d still like to encourage visitors to treat this precious country with great respect.
And I’d like to encourage travellers over fifty to spread our love to the least explored regions of this surprising land.
It’ll put a smile on your face.
Because Japan still hides a lot of magic spots away from the masses that will have transport you back in time!
So, today, I´ve created a gallery of all of Japan´s World Heritage, 16 in total, twelve cultural and four natural – exceptional treasures that don´t get the attention they deserve!
Would you believe that the search “Japan Sex” gets 10,000% more searchers on the Internet than Japan’s World Heritage Sites?
So, how about giving the less sexy aspects of Japan a chance?
Japan’s 16 World Heritage sites for travelers over 50
12 kms outside of Nara. The temple features the oldest surviving man-made wooden structures.
Himeji Castle (Ibongun, Hyogo prefecture)
Also called Shirasagijo (White Heron Castle) its white outer walls have preserved it in pristine condition. In fact, it’s the best-preserved castle in all of Japan. Unlike many other Japanese castles, Himeji Castle was never destroyed in wars, earthquakes or fires and survives in its original form.
Kyoto, Uji and Otsu
Over a dozen shrines, temples and castles in Kyoto and the neighboring cities of Uji and Otsu, including Toji, Kiyomizudera, Enryakuji, Daigoji, Byodoin, Tenryuji, Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji, Ryoanji and Nijojo.
Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
These remote regions in the mountains of Gifu and Toyama Prefectures are renown for their solid houses built in the gasshozukuri architecture style.
Hiroshima Genbaku Dome
The A-Bomb Dome is the only remaining structure in central Hiroshima, which predates the atomic blast of 1945, and now a peace memorial.
Itsukushima Shrine is one of the most beautiful and unique shrines in Japan, scenically located on the sacred island of Miyajima. It is particularly famous for its “floating” torii gate.
Over half a dozen shrines, temples and other sites in Nara, including Todaiji, Kofukuji, Kasuga Taisha and Yakushiji.
Shrines and temples of Nikko, a center of Shinto and Buddhist worship for many centuries. Today, it is most famous for its lavishly decorated Toshogu Shrine.
Gusuku sites and related properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu, Okinawa Prefecture, dating back to the era of the Ryukyu Kingdom from the 15th to the 19th century.
Kii Mountain Range
Sacred sites and pilgrimage routes in the Kii Mountain Range.
Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine
Iwami Ginzan silver mine and its cultural landscape in the mountains of Shimane Prefecture. The output of the mine accounted for one third of the world’s silver production in the 17th century.
Historic Monuments and Sites of Hiraizumi, including Chusonji and Motsuji.
Yakushima, an island in Kagoshima Prefecture, south off Kyushu, famous for its flora, especially its ancient Japanese cedar trees.
Kii Mountain Range
A mountain range spanning the Aomori and Akita Prefectures where the last remaining virgin forest of Siebold’s beech trees is located.
Shiretoko Penninsula, Hokkaido
The Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido is one of Japan’s most beautiful and unspoiled national parks.
So, there you have it!
Aren’t they incredible?
All they need is a bit of all that slow and very respectful kind of love only adventurers over 50 know how to give!