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Japan

Harmony, resilience and uniqueness: explore the many sides of Japan sustainably.

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From Tokyo sky-line to remote rural regions, Japan has so much to offer for travellers. The History of the country made this destination, its culture and traditions so unique. With 70% of its territory covered by mountains and forest, the archipelago offers a diversity of landscape which makes it perfect for nature-based tourism and ecotourism.

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Niseko is well-known as an international resort area with magnificent natural scenery and a variety of outdoor activities on offer, including winter activities like skiing and snowboarding and summer activities like mountain climbing, rafting and cycling. See also the website of Niseko Resort Tourist Association.

Read further to find out all about a green trip to Niseko!

Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, is located in a basin surrounded by mountains on three sides. Through its long history of more than 1,200 years, Kyoto has blended diverse cultures and has been the spiritual home of Japanese people.

In central Kyoto, streets and alleys run east-west and north-south, forming a grid pattern set out in ancient times. It is known as a home to more than 2,000 shrines and temples, featuring 14 UNESCO world Heritage Sites including Nijo-jo castle.

Nasushiobara City is located 150 kilometers from the Tokyo metropolitan area, in the northern part of Tochigi Prefecture. The urban area is located at the foot of natural mountain area that contains valleys and wetlands, such as Shiobara Hot Spring Village with an abundance of hot water belonging to the Nasu Volcanic Zone, at a high altitude of over 200 meters above sea level in highland climate. Dairy farming is thriving, and the raw milk production is the fourth largest in the country.

The Nagara River meets the Sai, Sakai and Kuwabara Rivers, flows parallel to the Kiso River with a high-water levee separating the two from the southern end of Hashima City. At the south end of Kaizu City approximately 10 km downstream, Fukuhara waju (circle levee) and Nagashima waju are located between the Nagara and Kiso Rivers. The Nagara River runs along the Ibi River with a separating levee on the right bank. It meets the Ibi River in Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture at its mouth and empties in Ise Bay.

Nanao is the largest city in the Noto Peninsula, the northern part of Ishikawa, Japan. This quiet city has few tourist attractions, but offers several amazing views of nature as well as an honest glimpse into the simple country life of Japan.

Sado is a city on Sado Island, off Japan’s west coast. In the center, Toki Forest Park is home to Japanese crested ibis or toki. On the west coast, relics from centuries of mining are displayed in the shafts of Kinzan Gold Mine. Senkaku Bay is enclosed by rocky coves and steep cliffs. There are panoramic bay views from Osaki Lighthouse and a nearby viewing platform. Inland, trails lead to the top of Mount Kinpoku.

Shodoshima (小豆島, Shōdoshima) is the second largest island in the Seto Inland Sea and one of the first islands born to the gods in the creation myth of Japan. The name literally means “small bean island”, which technically refers to the azuki bean, traditionally been a producer of soy sauce and now is even known for its olive plantations. Moreover, Shodoshima attracts visitors with its Mediterranean atmosphere, offering beaches, resorts, coastal sceneries and a mountainous interior with one of Japan’s most celebrated gorges, the Kankakei Gorge.

Yoronjima, also known as Yoron, is one of the Amami Islands and it is administered as the town of Yoron, Kagoshima. Much of the island is within the borders of the Amami Guntō National Park. The island still maintains close ties to Okinawan culture, with Eisa, a kind of Okinawa drumming and dancing style, popular for festivals such as the Sango Matsuri (Coral Festival), held every August. Okinawa patterns and styles of dress are also more common than that of mainland Japan.

Aso city lies in the Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. It is a modern city, established in  Kumamoto PrefectureJapan. It is a product from the merger of the former town of Aso, absorbing the town of Ichinomiya, and the village of Namino. The city is located in the Aso Caldera.

Close to the city lies on of Japan’s first national parks, Aso-Kuju National Park. The park is an essential place to visit for hiking, outdoor sports, or hot springs. In the center of it all lies Mt. Aso, a collapsed caldera and the most active volcanic area in Japan.

The economy of Amami Ōshima is based on agriculture (sugarcane, rice and sweet potatoes), commercial fishing, and the distillation of shōchū. The favorable climate allows for two rice crops a year. Seasonal tourism is also an important part of the economy. The traditional crafts include the production of high quality hand-crafted silk, which has, however, suffered from the abandonment of traditional Japanese clothing and competition from overseas.

Toyooka, on top of all its modern qualities, has uniquely succeeded in preserving its ancient history and cultural values. Those ideals are respected across the world. Our town is highly in tune with the protection of the local environment, and also strives to make its mark in Japan as a leading performing arts town. Toyooka aims to act by example, demonstrating to the world how we uphold the modern without sacrificing the traditional.

Toyooka is known as the “City of Bags”. There are more than 60 companies producing bags in the city, and it is estimated that about 70% of all bags produced in Japan, not including leather ones, are made in Toyooka.

Otaru, a small harbour city located on the northern island of Hokkaido, is recognized for its beautifully preserved canal area and the Temiya Line, which have become Otaru’s iconic tourist attractions. The historic and picturesque canal lined by old warehouses and the Otaru’s big festival ‘Otaru Snow Light Path’ held in February make Otaru an authentic site to visit.

Higashimatsushima City is situated along the east side of Matsushima Bay, one of the three most scenic sites in Japan. The city includes Miyato Island, the largest of the islands scattered in Matsushima Bay. Called Oku-Matsushima, the island has preserved an archetypal image of Japan, with its coastline selected as one of the 100 best beaches in Japan.

The southern Japanese island of Kyushu is full of natural and cultural treasures that are still to be discovered by many more travelers. In Kumamoto, one of the seven prefectures that constitute the island, the city of Hitoyoshi is home of great castle remnants, proof of the reign of the local Sagara dynasty. Surrounded by mountains and crossed by the Kuma River, Hitoyoshi also offers natural hot springs. All in all, Hitoyoshi city is a perfect combination of nature-based tourism and cultural tourism.

Fudai Village is a small village on the northeast cost of Japan and is most known to have withstood the 2011 tsunami due to it’s impressive seawall built by a farsighted mayor to protect the village.

Sustainability

Nature is deeply present in Japanese people’s life and thus ecotourism is a wonderful way of discovering both Japanese culture and landscape. Japan has now its own Sustainable Tourism Standards for Destinations accredited by the GSTC proving the country’s engagement to guide destinations through implementing sustainable tourism. Thanks to their inspiring stories and hardwork, many destinations have been selected by Green Destinations as Top 100 destinations in 2020.
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Getting there

Japan being an archipelago, the country is accessible mainly by the air. However, neighbor Asian countries can reach Japan via Ferries. The most common route by boat is a departure from Busan (Korea) and an arrival in Fukuoka, in the Southern island of Kyushu (Japan).

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Getting Around

Taking the train is the most common way to get around in Japan. The Shinkansen (bullet train) is the fastest option to bring you from one big city to another (Tokyo-Kyoto in 2 hours), and the Japan Railway lines connect cities to each others. If you are travelling on a budget, coaches are also a great solution to go around and allow you to travel by night too. (https://japanbusonline.com/en)

Tourism & People

Like many destinations, Japan has many hotspots for tourism that can quickly become overcrowded. And the situation usually worsens during peak-season, in Spring and Autumn particularly. In the recent years, tourists’ misbehavior issues have increased in sacred places, but also in natural scenic places or even simply inside trains, leading to stricter rules in certain touristic areas. Residents are however always very keen and always happy to introduce their customs and traditions to visitors, and Japan stays one of the safest country to visit. Human rights are well respected.

Travel tips from our editors

Léa Bonnet

Travel by train

Japan has fantastic trainlines and is renowned for its perfect punctuality and service. Large cities, smaller cities, tourist attractions, you can access so many places while enjoying beautiful sceneries along the way. Don’t forget to book your Japan Rail Pass before going to Japan! It will give you unlimited access to most of the Shinkansen trains, to Japan Railway Lines and some metro lines in Tokyo. Regional passes are also available. The website Hyperdia will be your best friend to organise your journey by train.

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Waste & Recycling

Japanese people and visitors love convenience store, also called conbini. However, the amount of plastic wrappings and bags still represents an important issue in Japan. Don’t hesitate to tell vendors that you don’t need a plastic bag by simply saying: sonomama de kudasai, (meaning “just like that, please” or “no bag, thank you”). And remember to bring your own shopping bag. Many visitors are also surprised of the lack of bins when eating in parks or outside in Japan. Usually, Japanese people bring their own rubbish back home, so please do the same. Do not leave rubbish on site and throw them when possible by respecting waste separation. You can also find bins in front of some convenience store for example.

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Go North !

As many of the most visited places are situated southern to Tokyo, northern Japan is somehow deserted by foreign visitors. However, if you are looking for long hikes and breathtaking natural scenery, go north! From cherry blossoms viewing in Hirosaki, to hiking along the Michinoku Coastal Path and skiing in the northern island of Hokkaido, many nature-based activities await. A little plus: Niseko Town and Kamaishi, two of our 2020 Top 100 Destinations, are located in northern Japan!

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Hop on a bike!

Once in Japan, you will see many locals on a bike. Cycling is a very enjoyable way to visit Japan and renting a bike is easy and quite cheap in the country. So as soon as you are outside of Tokyo, don’t forget this option! Cycling in the Japanese countryside and in cities like Kyoto, is a wonderful experience that will quickly get you from one place to another, will count as your daily work-out session and save the planet.

Sustainability recognitions

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In 2021, Japan has 12 destinations selected in the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations Story.

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The Japan Sustainable Tourism Standards for Destinations has also recently achieved the GSTC-Recognised Standards Status.

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