Japan travel is back, here are 10 luxury eco experiences you need to put on your to-do list

If the group chat hasn’t already let you know, it’s official, Japan’s borders are finally open for unrestricted travel. Tourists can now enter the country without a visa or a travel agent for the first time in two years, which is great news for those of us who can’t wait to return to one of the most exciting holiday destinations around. in the world.

While the chaotic streets of Tokyo and Osaka are a world apart, there’s also a whole catalog of experiences that showcase the country’s natural beauty in ways you’ve never seen before – experiences that put sustainability, nature and culture at the center. From ancient forests to eco-lodge stays in the snow, we’ve picked out the best unique nature experiences you shouldn’t miss on your next trip so you can indulge guilt-free and really see it all. Japan has to offer.


Embark on a guided tour through ancient forests

If you haven’t heard of the ancient cedar forests on Yakushima Island in southern Japan, we wouldn’t blame you. But once you set foot in this five-thousand-year-old forest, you’ll wonder why it’s not on everyone’s to-do list. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the famous Jomon Sugi, one of the tallest trees in Japan, it goes without saying that the views from this place are simply otherworldly. The best way to explore the area is to join a guided forest tour for the full experience with an expert who lives on the island. Additionally, all visit fees go directly to the park authority to keep the park open.

Help keep ancient traditions alive in Miyazaki

For anyone wishing to experience the traditional side of Japan, look no further than the ancient Shinto ritual of Takachiho Kagura in Miyazaki. The ritual takes place between November and February, where artists re-enact scenes from Japanese mythology to give thanks for the fall harvest. Takachiho Kagura has been practiced for over 800 years and is a humble offering that encourages a connection between us and the land – an experience is an experience that can be enjoyed and enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

the ancient Shinto ritual of Takachiho Kagura in Miyazaki, Japan

Hokkaido Region

Explore Japan’s clearest lake by kayak

If there’s one destination locals can rely on for a good time, it’s Lake Shikotsu. Shikotsu has the clearest water in Japan (it has held this title for 10 years) and can be enjoyed all year round. The best way to experience it is by kayak, where you can take your time marveling at the surrounding mountains in all seasons. If you visit in the fall, you’ll be sure to catch the local salmon as they migrate through Shikotsu.

Explore the foothills of Tokachidake Mountain by bicycle.

One of the best ways to get around Japan is by bike, which you’ll notice immediately when you see the number of neatly parked bikes on what seems like every street in the country. Hokkaido city Biei is no different, however, it just so happens to be perched right at the foot of the Tokachidake mountain range, making it one of the most amazing towns in the entire country – we’re talking major Studio vibes Ghibli). Join a guided bike tour of the region is simply the best way to experience it. There are also emission-free e-bikes available so you can go further without compromising your carbon footprint.

Experience an eco-luxurious stay at the Kuki Eco-Inn.

One of the best ways to enjoy a new destination is through its food, so when there’s an opportunity to stay at a local farm-to-table, it’s not to be missed. Eco-luxury hotel kuki in the fishing town of Esashi is one of the best local places to eat and sleep if you are in Hokkaido. Kuki’s products are in fact so local that they all come from within a 25 km radius of the hotel, including all seafood, eggs and vegetables. There is also a focus on sustainability at Kuki, where food is sourced ethically and seasonally, and kitchen scraps are composted for use on the farm.

Treat yourself to ultimate relaxation at Zaborin Ryokan

A trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a ryokan, and Zaborin in Niseko Town, you can let your mind and muscles relax in one of Japan’s most sustainable modern hostels. The ryokan offers two traditional onsen baths in each villa, as well as a communal library, massage room, and dining room that serves award-winning Japanese cuisine. Zaborin was also voted one of the top 100 green destinations in the world in 2020 and 2021, so you can relax guilt-free in your choice of indoor or outdoor onsen.

An outdoor hot tub covered in snow at Zaborin Ryokan

Kanto region

Pick up the pace with a canyon adventure

For those who want something to get the heart rate up, you can’t look past Tone River Canyons just two hours north of Tokyo. Nestled in the UNESCO Minakami Ecological Park, the river is the perfect place to tackle rapids by raft or canoe during the warmer months. Snowfall in winter makes the frozen river the perfect place to explore on snowshoes. Proceeds from businesses in the area go towards preserving the natural space, so a visit to the area will also help maintain it.

Eco-luxury at the Bettei Senjuan Hotel

Sustainability is a central theme at Hotel Bettei Senjuan, a modern yet traditional luxury hotel located at the foot of Mount Tanigawa. A stay at the hotel will make you feel at one with the natural surroundings, with every room opening up to views of the mountain peak and endless lush forests. Bettei Senjuan has also won numerous awards for her seasonal cuisine based on a sustainable philosophy. If that hasn’t already convinced you to add this to the list, it might be worth mentioning that each room comes with a private outdoor pool.

Support the revitalization of the famous Shiroiya Ryokan

If you want a truly modern Ryokan experience, look no further than the Shiroiya Ryokan. While the hotel technically opened over 300 years ago as an inn, its doors closed in 2008 due to the area’s economic decline. The building was saved by a city building project in 2014 to rebuild the area, and six years later reopened as Shiroiya Ryokan, one of the country’s most exciting new ryokans. The reconstruction has provided the region with a hub for design, art, food and culture, with renowned architect Sou Fujimoto working alongside famous designers to create a unique hotel experience while encouraging community connectivity.

Lush green and industrial gray contrast in the lobby of Shiroiya Ryokan

Try to fix broken pottery in a Kintsugi class

If you are not yet familiar with the enduring and beautiful art of kintsugi, now is the time to read up. In a country so well known for its handcrafted ceramics, it’s no surprise that the Japanese have also created art by fixing them. Kintsugi is the practice of joining broken pottery with precious metal to preserve and extend the life of the piece. However, there is an art to this repair, and joining a kintsugi workshop is one of the best ways to learn about the Japanese wabi-sabi philosophy that ties it all together. To Kintsugi Souke in Tokyo, you can learn how to bring old objects back to life and practice everyday sustainability as Japan has done for centuries.

Ready to expand your itinerary for your next trip to Japan? head on here for all the details to make your stay an unforgettable eco-experience.

Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by JNTO and proudly endorsed by Urban List. Please support the sponsors that make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

Image Credit: Visit Kyushu, Zaborin Ryokan, Hotel Shiroiya

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