• cultural heritage;
  • Japan;
  • Kyoto;
  • UNESCO World Heritage;
  • authenticity

Avoiding the pitfalls of both the reverential approach of ‘heritage belief’ and the overly critical one of ‘heritage atheism’, ‘heritage agnosticism’ is proposed as a theoretical middle path for the burgeoning field of heritage studies. The cases of Kyoto and the UNESCO World Heritage arena demonstrate the limits of a purely deconstructive analysis. The popular demand for historical veracity and authenticity, lay historicities, the ethnographic study of heritage institutions, and personal attachments to heritage are research topics that will benefit from heritage agnosticism, particularly if it accounts for the full variety of both professional and lay positions and voices.