The UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) encompasses 17 locations in Japan, within the city of Kyoto and its immediate vicinity. The locations are in three cities: Kyoto and Uji in Kyoto Prefecture; and Ōtsu in Shiga Prefecture; Uji and Ōtsu border Kyoto to the south and north, respectively. Of the monuments, 13 are Buddhist temples; 3 are Shinto shrines; and one is a castle. The properties include 38 buildings designated by the Japanese Government as National Treasures, 160 properties designated as Important Cultural Properties, 8 gardens designated as Special Places of Scenic Beauty, and 4 designated as Places of Scenic Beauty. UNESCO listed the site as World Heritage in 1994.
Kyoto has a substantial number of historic buildings, unlike other Japanese cities that lost buildings to foreign invasions and war; and has the largest concentration of designated Cultural Properties in Japan. Although ravaged by wars, fires, and earthquakes during its eleven centuries as the imperial capital, Kyoto was spared from much of the destruction of World War II. It was saved from the nearly universal firebombing of large cities in Japan in part to preserve it as an atomic bomb target, then later removed from atomic bomb target list (which it had headed) by the personal intervention of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, as Stimson wanted to save this cultural center which he knew from his honeymoon and later diplomatic visits (Nagasaki was then substituted).
The 17 properties of the World Heritage Site originate from a period between the 10th century and the 19th century, and each is representative of the period in which it was built. The historical importance of the Kyoto region was taken into account by the UNESCO in the selection process.