For modern travellers who want to enjoy the natural world, experience local customs, and leave a light footprint where they tread, Japan is a dream destination.
After all, respect for nature is in itself highly esteemed in Japan—in large part because of how the country’s diverse natural offering has inspired its colourful culture: from diverse beliefs to illustrious arts and crafts to magical theatrical traditions and a rich food culture.
And for such globetrotters, many of whom are eager to support the local economy of their destination, Japan offers yet more reasons to visit: there, you can enjoy authentic experiences in harmony with generations-old traditions—and living environment—of locals.
An island nation with a culture that stretches back thousands of years, Japan extends some 3,000 kilometres from top to bottom, encompassing sub-arctic Hokkaido Prefecture in the northern part and sub-tropical Okinawa Prefecture in the southern area.
Such diverse geography comes with many blessings: vast, forest-covered mountains; a web of serene streams, rivers and lakes; bubbling volcanoes; abundant, refreshing rainfall; four distinct seasons; and a bio-diverse environment rich in flora and fauna.
Unsurprisingly, Japan’s distinct natural heritage has been infused into its culture, inspiring customs passed down the generations: Noh, a traditional theatre; shojin-ryori, a dish made by monks and centered around soybean-based foods and seasonal vegetables; satoyama, a way of rural living that is compatible with nature, to name a few.
NATURE MEETS CULTURE
The fusion of nature and culture can be enjoyed firsthand across Japan, in remote and rugged rural areas as well as urban and dynamic towns and cities. And for many, seeking out environmentally friendly accommodation has become a raison d'etre for their visit.
GOOD NATURE HOTEL, for example, offers eco-friendly stays and experiences right at the heart of Kyoto, often said to be the seat of culture in Japan. A lifestyle hotel, GOOD NATURE HOTEL an oasis in the city where visitors go to replenish both body and mind.
The hotel’s dedication to wellbeing is reflected in its engagement with local traditions and the environment: for instance, GOOD NATURE HOTEL offers yoga and meditation in collaboration with Ryosoku-in Temple, a Buddhist temple in the historic Gion district, which lies about 10 minutes away on foot.
Invigorating walks along Kyoto’s rich natural environment, which includes locations such as the Kamo River, a site popular with residents and visitors, and experiences of local traditions, such as the esteemed tea ceremony, are also on the schedule of activities.
But there is more. By design, GOOD NATURE HOTEL is dedicated to sustainability. The hotel is committed to reduce waste, such as plastic waste, while promoting food produced locally—indeed, the hotel’s menu is inspired by seasonal vegetables sourced in Kyoto.
GOOD NATURE HOTEL is replete with vertical gardens adorning walls, plants embedded in rooms, and wood and stone structures recurring as design motifs—and that’s not to mention an open plan design, with a space for exhibitions that is flooded in natural light.
It’s no surprise that the hotel was awarded a Gold WELL Certification in 2020 for building design: the award, the first-ever of its kind to be given to a hotel, certifies that a building caters to the well-being of visitors—and meets strict environmental standards.
START WITH WHY
Travellers seeking environmentally friendly accommodation, while also keeping their carbon footprint to a minimum, would also be remiss if they didn’t consider visiting Kamikatsu town, which they can reach in two hours by bus from Tokushima City on the island of Shikoku.
HOTEL WHY, for instance, is a zero-waste hotel on site at the Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center, a recycling facility in Kamikatsu town. The hotel was built with interactive experiences at its core, taking advantage of the town’s 17-year history of sustainable activities.
Visitors can participate in recycling on site from arrival to departure. At check-in, for example, they can learn about the municipality’s zero-waste strategy—which treats rather than merely reducing refuse—and join locals in separating waste into some 45 categories.
The harmony between HOTEL WHY, the Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center, and Kamikatsu town’s environment goes deeper than first impressions may allow: the hotel’s modern interior, for instance, includes rooms furnished with recycled materials from the recycling center.
In addition, visitors can enjoy the majestic vistas available from the hotel, which stands some 700 meters above sea level and is enveloped in lush, green forest. Elsewhere, the more adventurous can join an extensive outdoor program that includes trekking, fishing and kayaking.
In allowing visitors to experience the town’s zero-waste culture while connecting them to local residents and helping to preserve their natural environment, it’s easy to see how HOTEL WHY was ranked sixth in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2022 awards.
SUSTAIN, CONNECT, PRESERVE
GOOD NATURE HOTEL and HOTEL WHY are two among many destinations in Japan where responsible visitors can relax, enjoy sustainable culture, connect with locals, give back to the community, and conserve nature—all while having an experience to remember.
More information about sustainable travel in Japan is available here.