Japan walking and culture tour, Nakasendo & Kiso Valley

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2022: 20 Apr
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Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your vacation will help support conservation and local people.

Environment
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.

You will experience the ‘satoyama’ landscape of rural Japan, the border area between arable flat land where rice is grown, and the mountains. Managed sustainably over centuries, it is biologically diverse and supports a wide variety of wildlife. The presence of small-scale tourism in the Kiso Valley has encouraged the conservation of these areas, and discouraged the development of golf-courses and other projects which have negative effects on the local biodiversity. We support conservation through the Nature Conservancy Council 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.
Community

The Impacts of this Trip

The villages you will visit along the Kiso Valley section of the Nakasendo trail were, until the 1970s, falling into disrepair and with few jobs, young people were moving to the cities. The villagers then began a concerted conservation and restoration effort, repairing the old wooden houses, and turning some of them into small ‘minshuku’ guest houses. Over the past 30 years this gradual conservation has continued, and the Kiso Valley villages have enjoyed a steady stream of income and sustainable development from the visitors who come.

You will be staying at these traditional ‘machiya’ houses, some over 200 years old. They are owned and run by several generations of one family, and all income from visitors stays in the village and brings the benefit of jobs for the younger generation. Your food will be prepared from locally-sourced fish, meat, and vegetables. Many owners also grow their own vegetables and rice. We support The Japan National Trust which helps protect the traditional buildings of rural Japan.

Climate

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