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JOMC Newsletter

Japan to Step Up Sustainable Tourism Offerings

With Japan announcing the gradual reopening of its borders, tourist spots across the country are gearing up to welcome back overseas visitors. Many of them are looking to provide holiday experiences that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

While sustainability initiatives have traditionally concentrated on protecting the earth's natural resources, focus has broadened in recent years to include economic and socio-cultural sustainability. This includes ensuring that individual communities--particularly in rural areas--are not depopulated or left behind in the rush for economic growth, and that their unique cultures and traditions are preserved. In Japan, which faces the additional challenges of an ageing population, the tourist industry is stepping up to the challenge, devising authentic travel experiences that leverage the country's natural beauty, help sustain these traditions, and contribute to the economy.

The islands of Japan straddle many latitudes - overlayed on a map of Europe, they extend from the south of Scandinavia to the northern coast of Africa - and this provides an array of climates throughout four distinct seasons. Visitors can fly from the country's subtropical regions to its arctic-like northern reaches in a few hours. The country's forests and mountain ranges are nourished by abundant rainfall, and the surrounding seas are rich in marine life. This has helped a distinctive culture to evolve whereby the Japanese live in accordance with the changing seasons and in coexistence with nature.

The latest range of travel experiences will give overseas visitors the opportunity to explore Japan's great outdoors and enjoy natural settings in harmony with their surrounding habitats. They will also be encouraged to familiarize themselves with different aspects of the country's culture, including its architecture, and craftsmanship such as sword-making, ceramics and textile weaving, helping to keep these traditions alive and sustain the communities that practice them. Visitors will additionally have the opportunity to sample a wide variety of regional cuisine featuring locally sourced ingredients, and the many different types of sake. They can also participate in boisterous local festivals.

The island of Okinawa in southern Japan is a natural paradise renowned for its flora and fauna, and its northern part contains subtropical evergreen forests registered as Natural World Heritage sites. Okinawa is home to more than 80% of the country's bird species; surrounded by lush nature, the town of Kin alone, on the island's east coast, accounts for 270 of them. Local guides with years of experience studying birds offer instructive eco-tours along nearby rivers during which they point out the various species.

Okinawa nature office.jpg

Straddling the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures in the north of the country, the Shirakami Sanchi mountains stand guard over a pristine beech forest virtually untouched by humans for thousands of years. Recognized as Japan's first World Heritage Site in 1993, the forest is a critical ecosystem home to rare plants and birdlife such as black woodpeckers and golden eagles. Visitors are required to apply for entry permits and act responsibly by following designated routes when walking or hiking; they can additionally enjoy rafting and canoeing during their stay.

Deep in the countryside north-west of Kyoto lies the ancient village of Miyama, recognized as a "Best Tourism Village" by the UN's World Tourism Organization in 2021. Visitors will be wowed by its collection of around 40 traditional thatched cottages. Sustainability is woven into the fabric of the community, which has traditionally worked alongside nature, not against it. Visitors can stay in bed and breakfast accommodation giving them a glimpse into daily life as it was hundreds of years ago. They can also engage in ecologically-conscious activities including bamboo crafting, thatching workshops and organic farming.

Miyama FUTON & Breakfast.jpg

Sustainable tourism not only helps preserve local environments and revitalize local communities, thereby addressing many of the challenges faced by rural Japan; it also encourages a different and more appreciative mindset among visitors. This e-brochure introduces a range of authentic cultural and community experiences that will bring visitors closer to the very soul of the country and make their travels transformative and even regenerative.

For media inquiries, including requests to use photographs, please contact:
JNTO Press office


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