Responsible tourism: Japan walking tour of Shikoku
1. Protection of Local environment Our tours are all small-group, both avoiding the need for large vehicles and hotels, and ensuring we donít overwhelm the places we visit. Where our tours use mountain or countryside trails, we ensure that we donít damage vegetation by using only established trails. We leave what we find, so no taking of plants, rocks, archaeological artifacts, etc. Introducing visitors to the loveliest sections of the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage Trail, such as the Henro-Korogashi on Day 4 , we hope to promote interest in preservation of these historic routes. At a time when most visitors travel from temple to temple by car or coach, we want to show the enduring value of walking instead.
2. Wild life We respect wildlife by avoiding quick movements, loud noises, getting too close and feeding animals. We help with the preservation of local culture by educating visitors about local traditions and crafts, and making the history and culture a central theme of their visit.
3. Energy We reduce the consumption of energy by unplugging all electronic appliances when leaving the office. During the day when it is bright we use natural sunlight and avoid turning on the light. During the summers we use electric fans instead of air conditioners.
4. Waste We follow the principles of ĎLeave no Traceí on our walking tours. We do not leave behind any waste on our tours. On our walking tours we dispose of all waste properly to avoid contamination of water sources. We avoid as much the use of paper, and do as much of our marketing as possible on-line, using internet fax and avoid printing out paper. When we do print we use double side as much as possible.
5. Transport We use local public transport as much as possible where this is an option, lessening the environmental impact of extra vehicles on small country roads. We encourage our employees to walk/bike to the office
Traveling with respect The presence of a Japanese-speaking tour leader makes a big difference in cultural interaction; it allows for communication between the visitors and local people and lessens the possibility of minor cultural gaffes by foreigners that might otherwise create nervousness on the part of local people about hosting foreign guests. Our local guides spend a huge amount of time and effort explaining to our clients about local customs and etiquette, so that our clients can interract appropriately with the local community. Japanese culture can feel extremely unfamiliar and habits which we might be second-nature to us (such as blowing our nose) can seem rude to the Japanese. Our pre-departure literature alerts our clients to ways they can avoid giving unintended offence.
Local Crafts & Culture The tour introduces clients to the cultural heritage of an area which has a history going back centuries, but has perhaps not been fully appreciated in recent decades. Our guides are local, knowledgeable individuals who can introduce our guests to the culture, history and traditions of this area of central Japan.
Small group tourism encourages young people who would otherwise leave to find work in the cities to stay and start small-scale sustainable enterprises that cater to visitors. We try to avoid the destinations that cater to mass-market tourism, taking our guest to the lesser-known but more rewarding places that larger tour companies tend to avoid due to their unsuitability for large groups. This means our clients money will end up in small community that may have little in the way of work for its young people. Uchiko is a rare example of a rural location in Japan where service industry opportunities are encouraging young people to stay and live, instead of following the decades-long general drift towards the major cities. We are delighted to use the locally owned and locally operated temple lodgings on nights 2 and 3 of our tour; the Japanese inns on nights 4, 5 and 6 are similarly rooted in their communities. On all eight occasions where dinner is included in the itinerary, locally-sourced ingredients and specialities will be important features of the menu, supporting suppliers in the immediate surroundings.