With so much to see and do in Japan, it can be difficult to narrow them down to a short and manageable list of things to do to fit into a limited amount of time. The Japan Travel Awards are here to help with that. Launched just this year, the awards seek to acknowledge remarkable attractions across Japan which promote tourism through diversity, inclusion, sustainability and hospitality.
For its inaugural edition, the awards have recognised eight winners across seven categories; there are also six special recognition awards and one Grand Prix Winner. The winners were chosen by a panel of judges consisting travel writers, marketing professionals and entrepreneurs.
While Japan has no immediate plans to reopen for tourism – unfortunately – you can still add these award-winning destinations and experiences to your travel wishlist.
Most Accessible: Fukushima Barrier-Free Tour Center
This inclusive tourist information centre in Fukushima provides multilingual support and services to travellers with disabilities. The centre also offers consulting services to local businesses and tour organisers to help them find solutions and improve their accessibility.
Best Hospitality: Fufu Kawaguchiko
Surrounded by lush greenery, this photogenic resort in Yamanashi prefecture offers stunning views of Mt Fuji along with unparalleled service. Guests often feel safe and welcome during their stay as the resort boasts a relaxing environment with great accessibility and a team of LGBTQ+ friendly staff.
Best Sustainable: Hotel Why, and Nishi-Awa, Mt Tsurugi and The Yoshino River Tourism Zone
This category has two winners. The first winner is Hotel Why in Kamikatsu, Japan’s world renowned zero-waste town. The sustainable hotel is built from local cedar and furnished with discarded but restored furniture, doors and windows. Guests can also visit the nearby waste centre to learn how the town integrates recycling into everyday life.
The second winner is Mt Tsurugi and The Yoshino River Tourism Zone in Tokushima prefecture. This local area is known for its untouched environment where nature and people live together in harmony. One of the highlights here is Earthship Mima, a sustainable guesthouse built with recycled materials and runs on its own water and electricity.
Best Family-Friendly: Happy Raft
Happy Raft in Kochi prefecture provides thrilling adventures including world-class rafting, canyoning and other tours in English and Japanese. Unlike many outdoor sport operators in Japan, Happy Raft welcomes families with children as young as three years old. The well-trained staff are there to ensure safety for the little ones, and overnight stays can also be arranged.
Best LGBTQ+ Friendly: W Osaka
The W brand of hotels are cool and funky, and they are known to celebrate diversity and inclusivity. The new W Osaka, opened just last year, is no different. Since its opening, the hotel has hosted several meaningful events such as Queer Me Out and What She Said, which highlighted important social issues such as female empowerment and diversity.
Best Luxury Stay & Service: Hoshinoya Okinawa
This stunning seaside resort in the coastal village of Yomitan is the epitome of Japanese luxury. You’ll have everything at your disposal: oceanfront guest rooms, a gorgeous infinity pool that can be used year-round, and various activities including horse riding along the beach.
Best Luxury Experience: Iwami Kagura Private Performance
This traditional Shinto dance has been around since ancient times as a blessing ritual to invite good harvest and health. These days, performances are limited, but you can still catch shows in Shimane prefecture, where there are over 150 active Kagura groups keeping this tradition alive.
Special Recognition Awards and the Grand Prix Winner
Special recognition awards were also given out to six other outstanding destinations and services in Japan. Take a look at the full list of winners on the Japan Travel Awards website.
This year’s Grand Prix award goes to the Fukushima Barrier-Free Tour Center for its exceptional services as well as its progressive approach to promoting diversity and inclusion.
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