Wakayama Prefecture, found just south of Osaka in western Japan, has been voted the winner of the Sustainability category for Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2021 Readers’ Choice Awards.
There were a total of 3 categories this year: Diversity, Sustainability and Community. Wakayama is easily accessible from major cities but a world away, filled with sacred pilgrimage routes, mountain retreats and majestic cedar trees.
Wakayama has cultivated a reputation throughout Japan as being a natural and spiritual heartland, and its conservation efforts and sustainable practices have undoubtedly left a lasting impression on travellers. It is no wonder that Wakayama stands out for its sustainability, as the conservation of the local area has long been the custom. Locals worshipped the forests and mountains long before organised religion existed in Japan, with the act of walking through the tall thickets of the Kii Peninsula considered a sacred act.
On one hand there is the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Listed Kumano Kodo, one of only two UNESCO listed pilgrimage routes in the world, along with the Camino De Santiago. The Kumano Kodo is a network of trails connecting long revered healing spots connecting three main shrines. The paths were originally walked by emperors then was made popular for everyday people, and can still be experienced through short two-hour hikes or multi-day walking tours.
On the more tranquil side is the temple complex of Koyasan amongst the mountains, a cluster of more than 100 temples known to be Buddhism’s most sacred location in Japan. Many of the temples offer shukubo, a temple stay experience that includes meditation, sutra copying and other spiritual activities which comprise the daily routine of the monks. One highlight is dining on the exquisite shojin ryori, delicious vegetarian cuisine created using locally sourced seasonal ingredients.
“We are so proud that Wakayama has been recognised for its sustainability, as it is a great example of how much Japan embraces the natural world and ensures to maintain it for future generations,” said Yoko Tanaka, Executive Director of JNTO Sydney Office. “Australians have been in the lead to facilitate the increase in international recognition of the overall area and I hope this trend will continue once international travel opens again.”
Read more about Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2021 Readers’ Choice Awards here: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/best-in-travel-2021-readers-choice-awards