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Where Are the Sustainable Tourist Spots?

April 13, 2022

Yuka Yoshida

Why was Shirakawa-go, a World Heritage Site, chosen as one of the 100 Most Sustainable Tourist Destinations in the World? There is sustainability's spirit inherited from Japanese ancestor.

What Is Shirakawa-go?

Shirakawa-go was selected as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings in 1976 by the Japanese government and was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1995. The main point of interest is the Gassho-zukuri style, which is unique to Japan. The thatched roof which thatched using materials such as awn, reed, and straw is built by combining wooden beams at a sharp angle. There are many stories about the origin of the name Gassho zukuri. One of them came from its shape; viewed from the outside, it looks like “gassho,” arms make triangle when a pair of palms joined together, as Buddhist monks often do. The slope of the roof is steeper than conventional roofs, so that the structure is adapted to let heavy snowpack automatically fall down to the ground.

Main Area in Shirakawa-go

Famous as a tourist spot is the Wada House. It is an exhibition space. At the same time it is still used as a residence and daily life is carried out. You may be surprised to hear there are people still living in this house. Visitors can tell at hand how this traditional house is used and how people’s daily live is carried out there.

Reasons Why Shirakawa-go Was Chosen

In 2020, the traditional Shirakawa-go was selected as one of the 100 Most Sustainable Tourism Destinations in the World by Green Destinations, a Dutch non-profit organization. It is the official certification organization for international certification, which annually selects regions that have adopted international standards for sustainable tourism and are making efforts to create better regions. This reason why Shirakawa-go was chosen was it has been admitted sincere response which work on issue with community by 100 Most Sustainable Tourism Destinations in the World. There are two reasons that Shirakawa-go selected.

First, those who lives in Shirakawa-go they strictly avoid the overtourism, which is tourist attractions ends up crowding for many tourists and caused polluting landscape, and they adopt the "completely reserve system." by adopting advanced-reservation-only system for visitors. Second, they conduct fire prevention measures by the whole community, including children and elderly people.

Behind these measures lies the “yui,” a mutual support among residents rooted in the community. In the winter, the area is always closed by the heavy snow. Natural conditions have been so severe that the villagers have to help each other to survive. For this reason, people have required mutual supports in various aspects of daily life throughout the year and a unique relationship of mutual supports was established in Shirakawa-go. For example, the entire village works together to thatch the roofs of the Gassho-zukuri, and this joint work provides a valuable opportunity to pass on the wisdom of the ancestors to the next generation.

In this way, Shirakawa-go appeals to us to reaffirm the importance of people working together to help each other and the importance of human ties and bonds that we have forgotten in the modern world. By doing so, we can see a future where we can create a more sustainable society. What do you think?

Spirit of Sustainability Inherited As the Japanese Tradition

The concept of the SDGs is spreading rapidly and the need to act in an environmentally and socially responsible manner is becoming more and more important. Compared to other countries, Japan is said to be behind in sustainability management. However, the spirit of sustainability is already included in the traditions that Japanese people are important. So that Hida Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture, Japan is a famous traditional place.






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