Increasingly, sustainability is at the top of many tourists lists. And Japan is hoping to capitalise on the eco-tourism trend in the wake of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. There are already many fantastic sustainable initiatives in the country, all of which offer the famous Japanese hospitality and quality experience.
We take a look at some of the most interesting of these eco attractions in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Relax in a hydroelectric ryokan, Karuizawa
The Hoshinoya Group, Japan’s premier luxury hotel chain, is known for offering the best of Japanese hospitality, elegance, and comfort in the most sought-after locations. Ryokans are traditional Japanese lodgings, and Hoshinoya Karuizawa goes the extra mile in preserving the exceptional natural scenery in which it is set.
Just 90 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train, the resort sits on a lake beside Mt. Asama and feels a world away from the neon capital. The river running down the mountain plays a key role in powering the property, generating hydroelectricity through a system simply called ‘Energy In My Yard’ (EIMY). This provides 70% of the resort’s energies, including the under-floor heating.
Each private cottage is specially designed to keep cool in summer without the need for harsh air conditioning, using the natural cooling from the winds of the highlands instead. Guests can enjoy award-winning ecotours, acclaimed bird watching, and healing hot springs during their stay too.
Kamikatsu zero-waste village, Shikoku
Kamikatsu is located in hills of the Setouchi Region, in the south of Japan. In 2003 the town took to a Zero Waste Policy, the first in Japan to do so, and aimed to eliminate the use of incinerators or landfills.
Residents of this town have spent over two decades reusing, recycling and reducing. The town has no trash collection system so residents transport the household waste themselves to a local facility, where there are over 45 separate categories for their waste segregation.
Back in 2016 the town managed to recycle 81% of all their refuse and with their sights set on 100% ‘Zero Waste’ by the end of 2020. In 2020, the town opened the ‘Why?’ facility to encourage people to visit and learn about the town’s ground-breaking sustainability initiative. The new facility includes hotel rooms for overnight guests, and is in the shape of a question mark. The town also boasts a designer bar made entirely from recycled refuse.
Sustainable luxury treehouse eco resort opening in Okinawa in 2021
Designed with the concept of bringing its guests closer to nature, Treeful Treehouse will offer secluded private rooms nestled amongst the jungle canopy. These luxuy rooms boast 360-degree views alongside a communal Aero House space, equipped with bathrooms, rest and relaxation rooms and a kitchen.
This space is connected to the treehouse rooms via a series of floating walkways and jungle paths. The rooms have been individually crafted to sit seamlessly within the natural environment, built around the existing flora in the area, whilst still providing a luxurious glamping style setting and modern facilities including air conditioning.
The resort is powered purely by its own solar energy, omitting the need to use any fossil fuels. It is passionate about giving back to the local community embarking on projects in the surrounding area, including reinstating a water mill at the site of the Shizogumui Waterfall which was last home to a mill over 100 years ago.
Regeneration in Tohoku
There is an increased call to demonstrate the value tourism brings and the positive impacts it can have with a special focus on rebuilding destinations more sustainably.
Tourism can be a force for good, offering a vital source of income and employment for communities in destinations. Works being done to support the Tohoku region and the Michinoku Coastal Trail, are paramount here in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The region was devastated by the impact and after effect of the tsunami and currently only gets visits from 2-3% of international travellers despite it being one of the biggest areas in Japan.
Beach clean-ups in Okinawa
In the southern islands of Okinawa a number of volunteer companies (such as Okinawa O.C.E.A.N) run beach clean-ups throughout the year to maintain the pristine beaches and protect local wildlife.
Last year the SEGO Initiative held it’s 10th annual beach cleaning project at Fujisawa beach, which attracted over 5,600 volunteers throughout the decade. As well as removing rubbish, volunteers also catalogue all debris to help establish where it is coming from and hopefully reduce future cases.