Japan’s beautiful natural scenery changes with the seasons, offering visitors sights and emotional experiences that you can’t see or feel at any other time. In this article we introduce eco tours recommended by the Japan Ecotourism Society, known as “Good Eco Tours.”
What’s a “Good Eco Tour?”
The Japan Ecotourism Society investigates eco tours throughout Japan and awards the designation of “Good Eco Tour” to tours that are not only enjoyable but also best represent the concept of ecotourism. According to the association’s handbook the eco tour must meet a set of 20 specifications to be certified as a “Good Eco Tour”, such as “Does the eco tour demonstrate adequate care for the environment and ecosystem?” and “Does the eco tour preserve the fun of a regular tour?”
(C)Japan Ecotourism Society
Feel the power of nature at a lake formed by a natural disaster
【Nagano Prefecture】Natural Lake Canoe Tour
As a result of an earthquake in 1984, part of Ontake-san mountain fell off into a river and dammed it, resulting in a natural lake. This eco tour involves both canoeing and walking around the lake. When you see the decaying trees you can feel the fearful power of Japan’s earthquakes.
On the other hand, if you immerse yourself in nature and entrust your body to it, you can feel the life-giving power of water and the radiant warmth of the sun’s light. This tour’s charm lies in how you can feel all at once the destructive and creative powers that nature holds.
Location: Otaki-mura Natural Lake, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture
Tour times: Late April to mid-November
Tour fee: Adults (middle school and older) 6,000 yen, elementary school students 4,000 yen, small children 3,000 yen. (All fees include tax.)
Tour capacity: 16 people (about 4 groups)
Spend the night at the lodge of the Matagi, a group of traditional hunters in the Tohoku region
【Aomori Prefecture】An overnight trekking tour at the Matagi lodge in Shirakami
(C)Shirakami Matagi Sha
This tour takes you trekking through Aoyama Prefecture’s region of Shirakami, where you can catch a glimpse of the lives of the “Matagi”, traditional hunters who make their living hunting in the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions. Your tour guide will be a real Matagi hunter! These hunters will teach you their customs and knowledge that they utilize to preserve the ecosystem and environment.
(C)Shirakami Matagi Sha
Although you will not partake in any hunting, you will get to see the Matagi lifestyle and savor mountain vegetable dishes with vegetables picked fresh from the mountain. You will also spend a night in a “Matagi Lodge” made entirely of natural materials and experience a natural lifestyle long-forgotten by city-dwellers.
Location: Okawa Upstream Area, Shirakami Sanchi, Nishimeyamura, Aoyama Prefecture.
Tour availability: Spring to fall (mid-May to early November) and winter (January to March)
Tour fee: 12,500~80,000 yen (Depending on number of people and time of year.)
Tour capacity: 10 people per tour per day.
Enjoy Japan’s winter on a walk through the snow
【Gunma Prefecture】Snowshoe Half-day Tour
(C)Nature Guide FANTAIL
This is a winter-exclusive tour in which an experienced nature guide will take you on a winter mountain hiking tour. You will be able to learn about animals, birds, and plants that you will only be able to see in Japan’s frigid winter.
On the tour you will wear snowshoes which are special shoes designed to make it easy to walk in the snow. The tours offer lectures on how to put on snowshoes and use them, so even beginners unaccustomed to the snowy mountain environment can safely enjoy the tour.
Location: Tanigawa Sanroku Machigasawa, Amayobi-yama, Minakami-cho, Gunma Prefecture
Tour availability: Every year from late December to early April.
Tour fee: Adults (high school and older) 8,000 yen, children 6,000 yen
Tour capacity: 8 people
Enjoy a cultural exchange while cycling
【Gifu Prefecture】Hida Satoyama Cycling
This tour will take you on a bicycling trip though Furukawa-cho in the Hida City region of Gifu Prefecture with a guide who is deeply acquainted with the area. The major attraction of this tour is that you will get to meet and learn about the culture of the natives. The tour availability time is very large so no matter how many times you visit you can enjoy seeing the seasonal beauty of the farming village.
The tour is very popular with overseas visitors and so they have an English homepage available.（http://satoyama-experience.com/）
Location: Hida City, Gifu Prefecture.
Tour availability: From March to December.
Tour fee: 4,700 yen/7,300 yen (Depending on which course you go on)
Tour capacity: 8 people per tour group
Aside from the ones listed above there are numerous other eco tours available all over Japan. Ecotourism is about more than just an enjoyable tour; it’s about seeing and protecting the valuable natural resources of the environment. You too can help out with sustaining the environment while you are traveling.
Want to know more about ecotourism?
“Ecotourism” is a type of tourism focused on recognizing and sustaining Earth’s precious resources. You can read more about ecotourism on the JES’ homepage so we urge you to give their website a look if you’re interested in learning more.