Current Sustainability Practices and Experiences on Ecotourism in Japan

The sustainability paradigm according to Funck (2010) was the first innovation introduced in tourism. She considers sustainable tourism as a quest for tourism to benefit the local population. Sustainability seeks to re-define interaction between humans and the environment and it can provide opportunity to bridge the gap between natural resource conservation and community development (Lai and Nepal, 2004, cited in Funck, 2010). The Sustainability Practices of Japan is a good example of how ecotourism emerged in a highly developed country like Japan. The introduction of ecotourism in Japan according to Funck (2010) can be classified as an innovation at the national as well as local level. For instance, at the local level, some enterprising nature fans developed Japanese-style eco tours in natural locations in Japan. At the national level, The Law for the Promotion of Ecotourism introduced a new definition of ecotourism with strong cultural elements and protection of the natural resources at the local level. In 1996, an organization called Iriomote Ecotourism Society was put up in Okinawa. This was established by local entrepreneurs, transport industries, and citizens group to promote ecotourism (Mante, et al., 2010, cited in Funck, 2010). In 1998, the Japan Ecotourism Society was established nationwide and was recognized as a non- profit organization (NPO) in 2003. It defined ecotourism as having the balance of three elements, as follows:

  1. preservation of regional nature, history, and culture;
  2. Promotion of tourism; and
  3. Regional vitalization.

However, we can see that as an organization, it promotes tourism in general, not ecotourism. In 2008, the Ministry of the Environment of Japan initiated the law to promote ecotourism when it redefined ecotourism as “an activity where tourists receive explanations and advice from guides knowledgeable about nature tourism resource and come in touch with these natural tourism resources in a way that considers the conservations of these resources “(Ministry of the Environment of Japan, 2011). To this definition, four sustainability principles were added, as follows:

  1. conservation of natural tourism resource;
  2. tourism promotion;
  3. economic and social development; and
  4. environmental
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