Responsible tourism: Southern Japan small group vacation
This tour is part of a new trend in rural tourism in Japan, supporting small, family-run inns and guesthouses in small towns and villages where there are few work opportunities. In contrast to the most widespread form of tourism here - large groups visiting impersonal concrete hotels - our tours go off the main tourist trail. As well as bringing revenue to these areas, demonstrating the tourist potential of these destinations encourages local people to take pride in and conserve their areas and their older, traditionally constructed buildings.
The village of Aya in Kyushu is at the forefront of organic agriculture in Japan, and is also famous for its production of traditional crafts, such as dyeing and pottery. Our company is one of the few to bring visitors to this beautiful but economically depressed region of Japan.
This area has relied in the past on public works projects financed by central government, which have often been the source of much environmental degradation in Japan. The introduction of rural tourism here will bring a welcome alternative source of revenue.
We have a policy of 'leave no trace' for visiting rural areas. We only use established walking trails to limit damage to vegetation, all rubbish is removed, and the taking of any plants, rocks, etc. is discouraged. We use public transport as much as possible to lessen the environmental impact of this tour.
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.
We also make a donation for each customer to the Nature Conservation Society of Japan and the Japan National Trust, organisations which help protect the nature and also architectural heritage of Japan.
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 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 Kyushu.
3. 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 if not 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.
Reviews of Southern Japan small group vacation
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I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 22 May 2016 by Barbara and Peter Gray
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Seeing Mt Sakurajima look very peaceful and then erupt and having an Onsen by the beach.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Pack lightly and be prepared to spend a lot of time on public transport as you travel large distances. While it is called a walking tour you don't actually walk large distances most days.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Yes, We stayed in family run accommodation about half the time and ate a lot of local food prepared by locals rather than big companies.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
Very enjoyable and interesting and run very well by our guide, Kenzo Sato.
Read the operator's response here:
We are delighted you enjoyed your tour in Japan with us. Thank you for sharing your feedback through Responsible Travel.