Sustainable Travel in Japan

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japan temple

This is a sponsored post.

Whilst I always advocate for a greener and more sustainable global tourism, I will never tell you not to travel. Travel IS the reason I became a climate change activist and a green lifestyle advocate. I had the chance to see the world and I’ve seen its diverse beauty by visiting many places. I believe seeing the world and appreciating the beauty and diversity of our planet is essential in order to wanting to protect it. It’s essential to go and explore, broaden our horizons and mind, eat-drink-play like locals. Experience different cultures and traditions. Travel is one of the greatest things in life.

So, I will always tell you to do travel, but do it by threading lightly on Earth. Do it kindly and gently. 

Japan is a far away destination from the UK, but its rich culture is so different from anything in Europe that visiting Japan can be the trip of a lifetime. It is a bucket list item. Japan is probably one of the most fascinating countries, a little bit out of Earth, isn’t it. It does require preparation to sustainably travel and explore Japan, but it’s totally doable. I won’t say catch a train there but there are great ways to offset your flight to Japan and when you are there, you can travel around by train. You also need a substantial amount of time, but spending a longer holiday is always greener than jet-setting. Speaking of which, you will need eSIM for Japan to make the most of your money spent on mobile and wireless communication whilst there.

So let’s explore Japan’s slow and green travel options for the eco conscious!

japan bullet train

Train travel

Everyone is already aware of this one, stating the obvious here. We all know, that Japan’s trains are from the future: an ultramodern train service throughout the country. Shinkanzen bullet trains can travel several hundreds of kilometres per hour, getting you from one major city to the next in no time. But Japan also has many other routes where you can try old steam trains or slow services as well and you can enjoy the view of the picturesque countryside as you travel. Train travel by far the most environmentally friendly of all public transport options. 

Authentic Japanese cuisine 

Japanese cuisine is world famous and adored by many people. The key element in traditional Japanese dishes is locally sourced, fresh ingredients. Sourcing local helps the local economy and minimal shipping is involved as it’s all sourced from nearby farms and seas. Which is better for the environment and fresh food is more nutritious. Nowadays, you can also opt for vegetarian and vegan options in traditional Japanese restaurants and even at street food stalls – and meat-free meals are more climate-friendly. 

japanese food

Nature exploration

Whilst Japanese cities are fascinating and definitely recommended to visit the hustle and bustle of Tokyo or Osaka – Japan is also rich in beautiful natural sights: mountains, coasts, rivers and forests. You can go hiking, on forest walks or visit nature reserves and national parks. You can visit Japanese onsens and discover the hot spring bathing culture of the country. 

Engage with locals

By learning more about local Japanese traditions and culture you help to keep them alive. Traditions often built on sustainability and living connected to the natural world and respecting its resources. You can visit and learn more about Japanese temples or participate in workshops on local crafts, trades and cuisine. 

japan temple

Stay in a ryokan

Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns and they are a perfect place to stay if you want to embrace slow travel. They have been around for thousands of years and they are more likely to be find in rural areas. The room normally consists of a traditional futon on the tatami floor and a common bathing area (often with water from a nearby hot spring). There’s also a communal area for the guests.

Green travel destinations in Japan

Japan has been putting sustainability in the core focus of developing and re-developing tourism in certain areas. The following list is an inspiration if you’re looking for slow-travel ideas.

japan blossom forecast

Hakone

Though it’s a popular destination for its hot springs and views of Mount Fuji, it is also located in a National Park. It’s a stunning natural wonder with mountains, waterfalls (like the Tamadare Falls and Hien Falls), landscape gardens (like Horaien or Gora Park) and many places to visit for experiencing the changing seasons and see the cherry tree blossoms or the autumn foliage of Japanese maple trees. Hakone also has an art and a photography museum.

Miyagi

Miyagi Prefecture is located in North-East Japan and famous for its natural beauty, hot springs, outdoor activities and local cuisine. The coastlines and mountains are offering a wonderful outdoorsy adventure and after a long day of hiking you can relax in the natural hot spring spas. The Okama Crater near Mount Zao also worth the visit (especially in spring, when the alpine flowers are in bloom). Lots of traditional and seasonal events are also there to entertain both locals and tourists. Plus, have you heard about he Japanese island of wild cats? It’s called Tashirojima. Well, it’s in Miyagi, just off the eastern coast.

japan beach

Kamaishi

This stretch of the North-East coastline is part of the Michinoku Coastal Trail, within the Sanriku Fukko National Park. It’s an outstanding area of natural beauty. Another green reason for visiting Kamaishi is to see how this city and region is rebuilding itself after the tragic, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. They are using sustainable solutions to do this, like wave based and wind power generated in Kamashi Bay and other renewable energy generators. It’s an off the beaten track destination – but it also has a flourishing cultural scene and traditional cuisine that’s makes the visit even more worthwhile.

Taketomi Island

Taketomi Island is to be found surrounded by the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park and by the Sekisei Lagoon (I a protected coral reef home to hundreds of species of coral and marine life) You’ll find quiet village life here, serene, sandy beaches (Kondoi Beach, Kaiji Beach and more) – although, not all of them suitable for swimming because of the strong currents, but still beautiful to visit – and you can rent bicycles to explore the island. Stay in local minshuku (like ryokan but less formal and normally a family owned B&B).

Kamikatsu

Visit the world’s first zero waste town! Kamikatsu became known as the world’s first zero waste town in 2003, located in the mountains of Shikoku Island. They plan to be carbon neutral by 2030 and the town of 1500 residents are on track to reach this by transforming every aspect of life from waste-disposal, through generating energy to the way they consume goods. It’s a fascinating place, they have a zero waste hotel where you can stay and a zero waste brewery where you can taste Japanese craft beer as well as restaurants. 

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