From dreamy cherry blossom getaways to incredible Unesco World Heritage Sites, there are endless travel experiences in Japan. If you need some help curating your itinerary, the Japan Travel Awards has just announced the winners of its annual competition.
Now in its second year, the Japan Travel Awards acknowledges outstanding attractions that promote tourism through diversity, inclusion, sustainability and hospitality. The winners were chosen by a panel of judges including tourism professionals, designers and entrepreneurs.
Coming to Japan? Add these award-winning destinations and experiences to your travel itinerary.
Grand Prix Winner, Best Accessible Travel: Hakone Maruyama Bussan
This workshop and Japanese marquetry store in Hakone makes traditional karakuri puzzle boxes and yosegi-zaiku mosaic marquetry. To become more accessible to travellers, the shop has installed barrier-free facilities and also hosts workshops with staff who’ve received inclusivity and diversity training. The company hopes to further improve its accessibility through sign language tutorials and barrier-free paths.
Best Sustainable Travel: Kumano Kodo
A Unesco World Heritage Site, this ancient Buddhist pilgrimage network in the Kansai region's Kii Peninsula has been in use for over 1,000 years. Today, visitors can still trek along these ancient routes while exploring the small local villages. Wakayama prefecture's Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau continues to work on developing the local infrastructure around the network and encourages responsible regional tourism. It has also improved diversity and inclusion with multilingual information for travellers.
Best Tourism Development: Chichibugahama Beach
This scenic beach in Mitoyo city, Kagawa is perfect for your Instagram feed. At low tide, the shallow mud flats are exposed and the reflection on the tide pools makes for the perfect photo op. Before becoming an Instagram sensation, the beach was polluted and didn't attract a lot of visitors. Thankfully, through more than 25 years of local efforts to revive the beach, it has become one of the area's most popular tourist destinations.
Special Recognition Awards, Best Accommodation: Wakura Onsen Tadaya Ryokan
The historic Tadaya ryokan in Nanao, Ishikawa is renowned for its natural open-air hot springs and private in-room baths that offer stunning views of the Sea of Japan and the Noto Peninsula. To become more sustainable, the ryokan has reduced its multiple-course meals to one breakfast and dinner course using mostly locally-sourced ingredients. This change has significantly helped reduce food waste and has provided business for local farmers and suppliers.
Special Recognition Awards, Best Cultural Travel: Sokoiko! Peace Cycling Tour
This guided cycling tour in Hiroshima is an engaging and meaningful journey that takes you through the centre of the city and past the primary atomic bomb sites. But it goes deeper by focusing on Hiroshima's story through unique narratives and local storytelling. The bike tours are available in both English and Japanese.
Special Recognition Awards, Best Family Travel: Happy Raft
Claiming an award for the second year in a row is Happy Raft in Kochi prefecture. The company offers adventure trips for families and travellers such as rafting, canyoning and river adventure tours in English and Japanese. While many outdoor sports operators in Japan don't welcome small children, the staff at Happy Raft are trained to ensure the safety of children as young as three years old.
Special Recognition Awards, Best Adventure Travel: Shimanami Kaido Cycling
This remarkable 70km-long cycling trail connects Imabari in Ehime prefecture to Onomichi in Hiroshima prefecture. The popular trail attracts over 300,000 cyclists annually and has been recognised as one of Japan's top cycling routes thanks to its gorgeous scenery. It’s also very accessible due to the large number of rental bike services catering to various travellers.
For more on the Japan Travel Awards, visit the website.
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