Japan

Japan travel is back, and here are 10 luxurious eco-experiences you need to put on your bucket list

Japan travel is back, and here are 10 luxurious eco-experiences you need to put on your bucket list


If the group chat didn’t let you know already, it’s official that Japan’s borders are finally open to unrestricted travel. For the first time in two years, tourists can enter the country without a visa or a tour company, which is big news for those of us who have been dying to return to one of the world’s most exciting holiday destinations.

While the chaotic streets of Tokyo and Osaka are worlds of their own, there’s also a whole host of experiences that highlight the country’s natural beauty in ways you’ve never seen before—local experience focal points that blend sustainability, nature and culture.From old-growth forests to ecolodges in the snow, we’ve narrowed down the best unique nature experiences you can’t miss on your next trip, so you can really see it all without worrying about it. Available in Japan.

Kyushu

Embark on a guided tour through an ancient forest

If you haven’t heard of old cedar forests Yakushima in southern Japan, we don’t blame you. But once you step inside this 5,000-year-old forest, you’ll wonder why it’s not on everyone’s travel bucket list. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the famous Jomon cedar, one of the largest trees in Japan, so it goes without saying that the views from this place are simply otherworldly. The best way to explore the area is on a guided forest tour, getting the full experience with an expert who lives on the island. Additionally, all tour fees go directly back to the Park Service to keep the park open.

Help keep old traditions alive in Miyazaki

For anyone looking to experience the traditional side of Japan, check out the ancient Shinto rituals Takachiho Kagura in Miyazaki Prefecture. Held between November and February, performers reenact scenes from Japanese mythology to give thanks for the autumn harvest. Takachiho Kagura has been practiced for more than 800 years and is a humble offering that encourages our connection to the earth—an experience that locals and tourists alike can appreciate and enjoy.

Ancient Shinto ritual in Takachiho Kagura, Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan

Hokkaido area

Explore Japan’s clearest lake by kayak

If there’s one destination where locals can have a good time, it’s Lake Shikotsu. Shikotsu has the clearest water in Japan (a title it has held for the past 10 years) and can be enjoyed year-round. The best way to experience it is by kayak, where you can spend your time admiring the surrounding mountains in all seasons. If you visit in the fall, you’re sure to catch local salmon during the Shikotsu Migration.

Explore the foothills of Mt. Tokachi by bicycle.

One of the best ways to get around Japan is by bicycle, and you’ll notice this immediately when you see the large number of bicycles neatly parked on every street in Japan.small town in hokkaido Biei is no exception, sitting right at the foot of the Tokachi mountain range, making it one of the most stunning towns in the country – and we’re talking major Studio Ghibli vibes. Taking a guided bike tour of the region is the best way to experience it. There are also zero-emission e-bikes available, so you can go further without affecting your carbon footprint.

Experience eco-luxury accommodation at Kuki Eco-Inn.

One of the best ways to enjoy a new destination is through its food, so when there is an opportunity to stay and dine at a local farm, this is one place not to be missed.Eco-luxury hotel If you’re in Hokkaido, Kuki in the fishing town of Esashi is one of the best local places to eat and sleep. Kuki’s produce is actually very local, all produce is sourced within 25km of the hotel, including all seafood, eggs and vegetables. Kuki also has a strong focus on sustainability, with food sourced ethically and seasonally, and kitchen waste composted for use on the farm.

Relax yourself completely at Zaborin Ryokan

No trip to Japan is complete without a stay in a ryokan, and at At Zaborin in Niseko Town, you can relax in one of the most sustainable modern inns in Japan. Each villa at this ryokan features 2 traditional hot spring baths, a shared library, massage rooms and a restaurant serving award-winning Japanese cuisine. Zaborin has also been named one of the world’s top 100 green destinations for 2020 and 2021, so you can choose indoor or outdoor onsen to unwind.

Zaborin Ryokan's outdoor bath surrounded by snow

Kanto area

Accelerate the pace of canyoneering

For those of you looking to get your heart rate up, you can’t get past Tone River Canyons is located two hours north of Tokyo. The river sits within a UNESCO-listed Aquatic Ecological Park and is the perfect spot for rafting or canoeing white water in the warmer months. Snowfall in winter makes the frozen river the perfect spot for snowshoe exploration. Proceeds from local companies go to protect the natural area, so a visit to the area will also help maintain it.

Eco-luxury at Bettei Senjuan Hotel

Sustainability is the core theme of the exhibition Bettei Senjuan Hotel, a modern yet traditional luxury hotel located at the foot of Mount Tanigawa. Staying at the hotel, you will feel at one with the surrounding nature, with views of the mountains and endless lush forests from every room. Bettei Senjuan has also won several awards for its sustainable, seasonal cuisine. If that hasn’t convinced you to add it to your list, it’s worth mentioning that each room has an open-air private pool.

Support the Revitalization of the Famous White House Inn

If you want a truly modern ryokan experience, look no further than The White House Hotel. While the hotel technically opened as a hotel more than 300 years ago, it closed in 2008 due to the region’s economic downturn. The building was rescued in 2014 by a city construction project to regenerate the area, and reopened six years later as Shiroiya Ryokan, one of the most exciting new ryokans in the country. The redevelopment provides a hub of design, art, food and culture for the local area, with renowned architect Sou Fujimoto collaborating with renowned designers to create a unique hotel experience while also fostering community connections.

Lush green and industrial gray contrast in Shiroiya Ryokan lobby

Try repairing broken pottery in the Kintsugi class

If you’re not already familiar with Jin Ji’s sustainable and beautiful art, now’s the time to read it. In a country known for its handmade ceramics, it’s no surprise that the Japanese also craft an art from repairing ceramics. Kintsugi is the practice of reconnecting broken pottery with precious metals to preserve and prolong the life of the piece. However, there is an art to this tinkering, and attending Kintsugi’s workshop is one of the best ways to learn about the Japanese wabi-sabi philosophy that ties it all together.exist At Kintsugi Souke in Tokyo, you can learn how to bring old objects back to life and practice everyday sustainability in a way that Japan has done for centuries.

Ready to expand your itinerary for your next trip to Japan?head over Learn all the details about making your stay an unforgettable eco-experience here.

Editor’s Note: This article was sponsored by JNTO is proud to be endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here to learn more about our editorial policy.

Photo credit: Visit Kyushu, Zaborin Ryokan, Shiroiya Hotel





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