Ecotourism or green tourism started getting attention in Japan about 15 years ago, and if you carbon offset your airticket (which some tour agencies will now help you with) you could probably spend a rather planet-friendly week or two over in these parts of the woods. Rent-a-car? Oh, do pick up a Prius, but high speed trains are the most convenient way to get around, and there are local trains and bus services connecting even the most rural parts of the country to Tokyo and Osaka, the 2 largest cities. Here is a brief list of things to do on a greenish summer holiday to Japan:
1) Hotsprings - enjoy the volcanic activity that heats up mineral water for your bath, naturally
2) Mountain climbing/hiking - Japan's highest mountain, Mt Fuji, is not the only tourist spot!
3) River rafting - just two hour northwest of central Tokyo, there are great rivers like the Tone
4) Scuba diving/ snorkling - Okinawa or the Ogasawara islands with corals and rare ocean fish
5) Shrines & temples - these are the spiritual "homes" of Japan, and for many foreigners too!
Japan Ecotourism Society was founded in 1998 and participates in TIES, the world's oldest and largest ecotourism organization, to promote the principles of ecotourism and responsible travel. Web Japan has more details.Responsibletravel.com is one agency that takes ecotourism seriously:
They have been working with the Japan national forest office (Erinsho) over the past 5 years to introduce restrictions on environmentally sensitive areas and tour operator restrictions.
They also organise regular river cleaning days and events with other tour operators, local government staff, and their customers. They organised a major event to promote keeping rivers clean which involved a 7 day rafting tour from Minakami (river source in the mountains) to Tokyo (ocean), collecting water samples on the way.
On all our canyoning tours customers are briefed about the importance of our ecosystem, the environment they are in on the tour and how they can make a difference. We also encourage customers to participate on our river cleaning days by offering discounted tours and free BBQ's. Our operations include the following policies:
# Carbon emissions offset practices (planting 3 trees per year per vehicle)
# Use of only laser printing to eradicate printer cartridges
# Low paper usage by mainly internet advertising (printed materials are on recycled paper)
# Rubbish separation and recycling (plastic = plastic decking)
Courant Marin, a local kayak promotion tour company, has this option:
Kayaking along the coast, having a break on the secluded beach, snorkeling while at rest, chatting, or just doing nothing, we might stop over at small towns and villages, walk around, chat with locals and taste their food, these are just a few ideas of our trips.
Bouldering in Hiwasa: We use a different route daily, sometimes on bicycles and river kayaks, so you'll have new discoveries on every trip. At the end of the day, if you are a big fan of hot springs "Onsen", can't miss this. And of course, the fresh local food will please you to your utmost satisfaction. Why don't you relax and take time for slow travel using your own hands and feet? We promise you will discover many things you never had the time to appreciate. Come and enjoy wonderful time with us.
Other (but no all) tour agencies have simliar or even tougher policies in place. Don't let the rules and regulations stop you. If you plan on doing a long trip to Japan or other countries this summer, do ask your travel agent what they have to offer in terms of green solutions to make your well-deserved time off even more enjoyable - and sustainable.
Brought to you by Martin Frid at greenz.jp