Japan has it all. From silky shores and ancient temples to tea ceremonies and snow-capped mountains, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 25 million tourists couldn’t resist its charm last year (2023). But to continue being the best of the best, Japan must tackle one core idea: sustainability. And time is of the essence, especially as footfall rises to pre-pandemic levels. The country has seen an increased strain on resources. Fortunately, there are ways we can all chip in to help. Whether it be promoting off-the-radar destination or spearheading community-based projects, read on to discover how – and why – we’re vouching for sustainable tourism in Japan.
- Undertourism in Japan
- Philantourism in Japan
- Community-based tourism in Japan
- Indigenous tourism in Japan
Japan’s tourist numbers reaching pre-pandemic levels is something of a double-edged sword. While the surge is good news for the economy, overtourism has put pressure on both Japan’s people and land: Mount Fuji is clogged with human traffic jams, leading to accidents and erosion; and public transport systems are under serious strain. So how can we strike a beneficial balance? By venturing to lesser-charted territories and converting overtourism into Undertourism. We’re keen champions of visiting off-the-radar spots like Mitsutoge, a lesser-visited mountain that swaps clambering crowds for enviable views of Mount Fuji (we know where we’d rather be). Japan also has plans to improve its infrastructure and distribute tourists more evenly, so you can visit the all-important hotspots without leaving a trace.
We believe that travel should be a force for good, and our concept of Philantourism (a mash-up of philanthropy and tourism) embodies just that. It’s the act of considering which holiday destination will benefit from your spending money, and when it comes to sustainable tourism in Japan, this is a sure-fire way to help. Tourists put over five-million yen into local pockets in 2023 – so simply turn up, treat yourself to locally made matcha, chopsticks and ceramics and help do your bit in supporting one of the country’s fundamental economic pillars.
Adopt a ‘local-first' attitude and support community-based tourism in Japan. By immersing yourself in experiences and accommodation owned by local communities, economic benefits remain with them, rather than ending up offshore. It’s a win-win situation – by staying in community-owned homestays, for example, you can experience authentic Japanese culture and hospitality while financially uplifting the owners. Alternatively, visiting places affected by natural disasters is an easy way to soak in some of the country’s stunning scenery all the while aiding sustainable tourism in Japan.
Beneficial interactions with a country’s indigenous communities are a key component in sustainable travel, and Japan is no stranger to this. Hokkaido – the country’s northernmost island – has been home to the indigenous Ainu people for centuries, and a visit here offers the chance to immerse yourself in Ainu history and culture. Their religious beliefs, unique language, respect for nature and traditional dances are shared at the yearly 1,200 festivals. Or, check out Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park, Japan’s only museum dedicated to Ainu culture. Intended to protect and promote Ainu communities, an educational and enjoyable day here ensures Japan’s indigenous communities continue to thrive.
Written by Evie Buller | Header Image by Zoe Fidji.