When you think of Japan, you think of technology right? When you think of Eco tourism, Japan is not the first place that springs to mind, is it? But did you know that Japan leads the world in environmental technology? They are major investors when it comes to fixing our environmental problems with clever gadgets. Plus, they have put that same enthusiasm and dedication into their young but vibrant Eco Tourism industry.
Eco tourism in Japan really began in 1998 with the founding of the Japan Eco Tourism Society. Their aim is to promote and organise responsible travel. For anyone travelling to Japan with a green conscious can rest assured that Japanese efficiency makes getting around effortless. Their trains are the fastest in the world and tourists qualify for reduced train travel through the Japan Rail Pass. There is also available to visitors, the very affordable Japan Bus pass.
If you want to rent a car you will be relieved to know that renting a Pruis is always an easy and convenient option And if Hybrid car technology interests you, take a tour around Toyota’s Tsutsumi Auto plant, home to the Pruis. It is about 3 hours west of Tokyo. One of the most impressive features of the auto plant is that it has 50 thousand square metres of solar panels. They supply half of the electricity the plant uses.
Of course no visit to Japan would be complete without a trip to see the magnificent
Mount Fuji. It is 3,776.24 metres high and for the more adventurous, the official climbing season takes place in July and August. The weather is usually milder then and getting there by public transportation is easier. The most popular approach is from Tokyo, just a few hours away on the Kawaguchiko-Yoshidaguchi Trail see.
Another mountainous region worth exploring is Nagano near the town of Yamanouchi which are famous for their snow monkeys or Japanese Macaques. They like to relax in the natural hot springs there in the Hell Valley Wild Monkey Park (Jigokudani Yaen-koen). To get there take a bus from Yudanaka Station, Shibu Onsen or Nagano Station to Kanbayashi Onsen. From the local station you can join a 30 minute walking trail to the Monkey Park.
A visit to Japan would not be complete without a trip to the Ogasawara Islands, located about 1,000 km south of the mainland. They have a unique ecology which attracts international birdwatchers. Scuba diving and snorkelling are popular too with rare ocean fish and coral to explore.
The Ogasawara Islands are a collection of 30 large and small volcanic islands.
But only Chichijima and Hajima are open to tourists. Chichijima is home to an aquarium dedicated to turtles and most of the accommodation in the Ogasawara Islands is located here. You can swim with dolphins and go whale watching. To get to Chichijima you can take a ferry but they are only available once a week from Tokyo. Plans to build an airport were shelved for environmental reasons.
Kyoto was Japan’s capital until 1868 and with its exquisite collection of temples and ancient buildings; it’s a city you have to see. Getting around is easy for the eco tourist, just hop on a bike from J cycle bike rentals. The loveliest time of year to visit is in the Autumn which is particularly spectacular.
If you want to see some traditional Japanese temples, shrines and ruins visit Nara, together with the Kasugayama Primeval Forest, they form the
“Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara“, deemed special enough to warrant the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site..
A trip to Mount Koya should be a top of your itinerary, home of Shingon Buddhism, and founded in 805 by Kobo Daishi. It’s a small and isolated town which grew up around the original temple on Koyasan’s wooded mountaintop. In the 1200 years since the first temple, 100 more have been built on the streets around the town and Koyasan remains one of the best places to experience an overnight stay at Shukuboa, where you can experience a monk’s lifestyle, eating vegetarian shojin ryori and participating in morning prayers. Many temples in the region offer this service to visitors.
I also recommend an excursion to Tsumago, a famous post town on the Nakasendo route. It is now preserved by the local residents and cars are prohibited on the main street in the day, creating an opportunity for visitors to experience what it was like before the hustle and bustle of modern times. Whilst in the area, don’t miss the chance to go hiking on the spectacular trail from Tsumago to Magome.
Japan’s diverse landscape is really worth seeing. From the ancient cities of Nara and Kyoto to the beautifully-preserved village of Tsumago, from the World Heritage Site of Nikko to the rich variety of temples, castles, shrines and holy mountains, there is plenty to do for the responsible tourist.