Responsible tourism: Kumano Kodo trekking vacation, Japan
1. Protection of Local environment / Transport Our tour is small-group, with a maximum of 12 participants. This means we can travel to and from the walking trail by public transport (train and bus) rather than using chartered, large vehicles. We contribute to the viability of these public transport links in the Kumano region, without which people who do not have their own vehicles would become increasingly isolated.
While walking on the Kumano Kodo trail, we ensure that we donít damage vegetation by using only established tracks. We leave what we find, so no taking of plants, rocks, archaeological artefacts, etc. We ensure that tour participants dispose of waste in a responsible way.
2. Suppliers We work with small local businesses rather than international chains. This ensures that our clients' money stays as far as possible in the local community. The owners of all the small inns on this tour are very proud of their locally-sourced produce used in their meals. The inn used on the first night on the trail operates on an organic basis and serves only organic products.
The village of Chikatsuyu, the second village on the trail, is like many small communites in the area and faces decline and depopulation; the small family-run inn we use there is bringing much-needed visitors and income to this rural location. We hope this approach 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.
1. Traveling with respect 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.
2. Local Crafts & Culture The tour introduces clients to the cultural heritage of the Kumano region, 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 the Kumano area and its unique brand of religion. Our group walks on the Nakahechi portion of the Kumano Kodo, and this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.