Harmony, resilience and uniqueness: explore the many sides of Japan sustainably.
Why visit Japan
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
In 2020, 6 Japanese Destinations were featured in the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations Competition.
The Japan Sustainable Tourism Standards for Destinations has also recently achieved the GSTC-Recognised Standards Status.