Friday, July 25, 2008

Eco-tourism in Japan

Eco-tourism in Japan thrives

In June 2004, efforts by the Japan’s Ministry of the Environment selected 13 areas of the country in which it started to start model projects to promote eco-tourism. This initiative is now in its second year. Through eco-tourism visitors can enjoy nature while caring for the environment. The Ministry of the Environment subsidised half the total project costs, such as costs for training eco-tour guides and publishing educational materials, up to ¥5 billion per model area per year.

Eco-tourism is a new form of travel in which a limited number of people, escorted by a trained guide, enjoy visiting a rich natural environment while causing the least possible environmental impact. While eco-tours have been gaining popularity around the world, they are still not well known in Japan, and few Japanese people have experienced an eco-tour.

In selecting project areas the Ministry of the Environment held an open competition in three categories: 1) areas for encountering primitive nature; 2) existing tourist spots that are introducing eco-tourism; 3) areas for experiencing eco-friendly activities, such as tree planting in semi-natural areas bordering rural villages, and agricultural areas located between population centres and foothills, where eco-tourism is being promoted by local communities.

Of the 53 areas that entered the competition, the following areas were selected: in category one, four areas including the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido and the Shirakami Beech Forest, located between Aomori and Akita prefectures; in category two, four areas including the northern foothills of Mount Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture; in category three, five areas, including the Nanki-Kumano area, located between Mie and Wakayama prefectures.

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