Eco, Accessible, and Cultural: Winners of the Japan Travel Awards 2024

Showcasing Excellence in Sustainability, Inclusivity, and Cultural Preservation

Japan Travel Awards 2024

Japan, a premier global tourism destination, is on a journey toward embracing sustainability and inclusivity within its vibrant tourism industry. Despite its fame, the country recognizes the need for progress in these areas.

Across Japan, from municipalities to landmarks and businesses, efforts are underway to enhance travel experiences, making them more inclusive and environmentally friendly.

The “Japan Travel Awards” stands as a testament to these endeavors, spotlighting those leading the charge. This article will delve into the stories of the 10 lauded recipients of the Japan Travel Awards 2024, each a pioneer in their right, paving the way for a more sustainable and inclusive future in Japanese tourism.

What are the Japan Travel Awards?

Japan Travel Awards 2024

The Japan Travel Awards are designed to recognize and celebrate the impact of tourism in creating a better society. These awards focus on destinations throughout Japan that excel in promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, sustainability, and exceptional experiences for visitors.

The competition includes categories for Most Accessible Travel, Best LGBTQ+ Friendly Travel, Best Sustainable Travel, Best Inbound Travel, a Grand Prix, and Special Recognition Awards.

Now in its third iteration, the awards are open to a wide array of participants including municipalities, cultural landmarks, leisure facilities, and businesses that contribute to memorable travel experiences.

The initiative aims to highlight innovative and impactful concepts within the tourism sector, encouraging a broad spectrum of entries from across the industry. This approach demonstrates a commitment to fostering an inclusive and diverse travel industry, showcasing destinations that offer more than just sightseeing, but truly remarkable travel experiences.

▶Japan Travel Awards Official Website:

Japan Travel Awards 2024 Winners

From here, I will introduce the Japan Travel Awards 2024 winners. This iteration had 163 entries, 18 finalists, and 10 winners. Here are the 10 winners!

Zerogravity (2024 Grand Prix)

© General Incorporated Association Zerogravity

Zerogravity (ゼログラヴィティ), situated in Amami Oshima, Kagoshima, emerged as the Grand Prix winner of the 2024 Japan Travel Awards, marking a significant milestone in the realm of accessible travel.

Founded over 25 years ago, the inspiration for Zerogravity was born from the founder’s experience of feeling weightless while diving around Hachijo Island. This sensation sparked the desire to create an environment where individuals with disabilities could safely and confidently enjoy marine activities.

In the spring of 2016, Zerogravity realized this vision by establishing a barrier-free facility in Setouchi Town, enabling wheelchair users to partake in marine activities like diving, whale watching, and snorkeling, amidst Amami Oshima’s majestic natural setting.
Over time, with community support, Zerogravity has expanded its offerings to embrace all visitors, allowing everyone to experience the island’s splendor.

Zerogravity was awarded the prestigious title for its unwavering commitment to inclusivity in marine sports, creating an environment where individuals, regardless of physical abilities, can enjoy marine activities alongside their loved ones. The facility’s attention to detail, from accessible accommodation and boats to barrier-free pools, embodies the core values of the Japan Travel Awards.

▶Official website:

Naniwa Issu (Best Accessible Travel & Best Accommodation)


Naniwa Issu (なにわ一水), a traditional Japanese inn located in Matsue, Shimane, stands as a beacon of accessibility and universal design in the hospitality industry.

Since its founding in 1918, this ryokan has undergone significant renovations, most recently in December 2021 and February 2023, to enhance its offerings. Out of 23 rooms, 20 boast either open-air or panoramic baths with views of Shinji Lake, and notably, 10 rooms are specifically designed to be barrier-free, embracing universal design principles. This commitment ensures that all guests, regardless of physical abilities, can enjoy a comfortable and enriching stay, surrounded by the serene beauty of Shinji Lake.

Naniwa Issu’s dedication to breaking down physical, social, and dietary barriers earned it the “Best Accessible Travel” award as well as the “Best Accommodation” award at the Japan Travel Awards 2024. The ryokan’s ongoing improvements and attention to detail in accessibility have set a new standard in the industry, reflecting a broader commitment to making travel easy and enjoyable for everyone. This ethos, coupled with its accolades such as the IAUD International Design Award 2020, showcases Naniwa Issu’s role as a pioneering force in universal tourism.

▶Official website:

Hotel Palm Royal Naha (Best LGBTQ+ Travel)


Hotel Palm Royal Naha (ホテルパームロイヤルNAHA国際通り), located in Naha, Okinawa, offers a unique stay near International Street, blending cultural richness with modern luxury.

The hotel stands out for its art museum ambiance, featuring a wide array of Asian antiques and European modern art. It is dedicated to delivering exceptional Ryukyu hospitality, ensuring every guest experiences relaxation and comfort through luxurious amenities, including high-quality linens and tranquil spaces like an outdoor pool and art galleries.

Awarded the “Best LGBTQ+ Travel” at the Japan Travel Awards 2024, Hotel Palm Royal Naha is celebrated for its unwavering commitment to inclusivity and diversity. As the first LGBTQ+ friendly hotel in Kyushu and Okinawa, it has been a frontrunner in promoting LGBTQ+ awareness since 2014, visibly supporting the community through rainbow flags, gender-neutral restrooms, and active participation in LGBTQ+ events.

This hotel sets a significant precedent in the tourism sector, demonstrating the powerful impact of combining diversity with travel.

▶Official website:

Okinawa Diving Service Lagoon (Best Sustainable Travel)

©2021 Lagoon Co.,Ltd.

Okinawa Diving Service Lagoon (沖縄ダイビングサービス Lagoon), situated in the picturesque Manza area of Onna Village, Okinawa, is a leading resort known for its dedication to coral conservation alongside offering snorkeling, trial diving, and fun diving experiences.

Since its opening in March 2013, Lagoon has committed to providing guests with memorable and enjoyable diving experiences in unique locations, emphasizing safety, fun, and personalized attention in small groups. The beauty of Okinawa’s natural marine life, coupled with the joy of diving, offers guests healing and enlightenment, underscoring the importance of coexisting with nature and embracing environmental responsibility.

Awarded the “Best Sustainable Travel” prize in the Japan Travel Awards 2024, Lagoon is celebrated for its engaging coral conservation program, where participants learn about corals before planting their coral seedlings. This initiative allows even those new to sustainable activities to enjoy and contribute to environmental preservation.

It’s an attractive, responsible tourism experience that educates, entertains, and fosters a deeper appreciation for marine conservation, setting a benchmark for responsible engagement with the natural world.

▶Official website:

Temple Stay Kakurinbo (Best Inbound Travel)

Copyright © 2017 Kakurinbo

Temple Stay Kakurinbo (宿坊覚林坊), located in Minobu, Yamanashi, is a temple inn with a rich history of about 550 years, nestled within the sacred grounds of Minobusan Kuonji, a significant site for the Nichiren sect of Buddhism.

Founded by the 11th head priest, Kakurinbo is known for venerating Nitcho Shonin (日朝上人) and offering protection for eye diseases and academic endeavors. The inn boasts a serene Japanese garden crafted by the dream-seeking monk, offering guests a peaceful retreat amidst the temple’s tranquility.

Awarded the “Best Inbound Travel” at the Japan Travel Awards 2024, Kakurinbo stands out for its innovative approach to making the traditional shukubo experience accessible and enjoyable for international visitors. The inn’s success lies in its multilingual services, diverse cultural programs, and inclusive dining options catering to various dietary needs, including halal.

Kakurinbo has skillfully combined the essence of a temple stay with modern hospitality, ensuring a memorable and enriching experience for travelers from all backgrounds, demonstrating exemplary creativity in welcoming foreign visitors while preserving the integrity of the local culture.

▶Official website:

Special recognition awards

From here, I will introduce the five winners of the special recognition awards.

Ama Hut Satoumian (Best Cultural Travel)

Copyright (C)2022 Shima City Tourism Association.

Ama Hut Satoumian (海女小屋体験施設さとうみ庵), located in Shima, Mie, offers an immersive cultural dining experience where guests can savor fresh seafood caught by ama divers (海女) while hearing their stories.

These divers, known for their traditional freediving practices, gather in huts to rest and warm up, sharing meals and conversations around a central hearth. Satoumian invites visitors to partake in this unique aspect of Japanese heritage, offering fresh delicacies like Ise-ebi lobster and abalone, enjoyed in the authentic atmosphere of an ama hut.

Recognized with the “Best Cultural Travel” Special Recognition Award, Ama Hut Satoumian is lauded for providing a unique tourist experience that not only allows for meaningful interactions with ama divers but also supports them with supplementary income.

This initiative significantly contributes to the preservation of the ama divers’ cultural heritage, ensuring the survival and appreciation of this unique aspect of Japanese coastal life.

▶Official website:

Mori No Kuni Valley (Best Family Travel)

© SUN-CREA Co.,Ltd.

Mori no Kuni Valley (森の国 Valley) in Matsuno, Ehime, situated by the Shimanto River, renowned as Japan’s last clear stream, is a community that cherishes a life in harmony with nature.

Guided by the philosophy of engaging with and learning from the forest, this initiative promotes sustainable living through the natural world’s innate forces. It aims to foster a balance where humans and nature coexist, offering a retreat for all to return to nature.

Recognized with the “Best Family Travel” Special Recognition, Mori no Kuni Valley provides an ideal setting for family-friendly stays, enriched with activities that inspire contemplation on living sustainably with nature. It excels in offering experiences that disconnect families from digital distractions and reconnect them with the natural world.

Through its accommodations, diverse activities, and children’s camps, Mori no Kuni Valley stands as a testament to the importance of nurturing a harmonious relationship with our environment, offering invaluable lessons for both children and adults.

▶Official website:

INOW (Best Transformative Travel)


INOW (いのう), awarded the “Best Transformative Travel” Special Recognition, offers an immersive experience in Kamikatsu, Tokushima, Japan’s renowned Zero Waste Village.

The program, named after the local dialect for “let’s go home,” invites guests to integrate into the community, living alongside locals to discover a sense of belonging and explore sustainable living practices through hands-on learning and introspection.

This transformative journey into Japan’s pioneering zero-waste movement not only educates participants about environmental sustainability but also encourages deep self-reflection. By engaging directly with the residents and businesses of Kamikatsu, travelers gain insights into effective waste reduction strategies and the lifestyle changes necessary to combat climate change.

INOW stands out for its educational and community-driven approach, providing a bridge between visitors and the local culture, ultimately inspiring participants to find their place in the world where they can thrive sustainably. Through this program, visitors leave with actionable knowledge to make their everyday lives more eco-friendly and meaningful.

▶Official website:

Tautasya (Best Transformative Travel)

田歌舎 All Rights Reserved.

Tautasya (田歌舎), situated in the idyllic setting of Miyama, Kyoto, embodies the essence of sustainable living within Japan’s picturesque landscapes. This eco-village, recognized for its self-sufficient lifestyle, combines accommodation, a restaurant, outdoor experiences, and a commitment to traditional agriculture and hunting practices.

It leverages the bounty of its surroundings to cultivate a wide array of crops without chemical fertilizers and sustainably manages local wildlife, offering a direct farm-to-table experience. The entire village, built through self-constructed wooden buildings and powered by natural springs, showcases a deep respect for nature.

Awarded the “Best Transformative Travel” Special Recognition, Tautasya’s holistic approach to living in harmony with the environment offers a profound learning experience. It is celebrated for providing a deep dive into the practices of coexistence with nature and animals, inviting travelers to engage in a lifestyle that’s both enriching and sustainable.

Tautasya stands as a testament to the importance of regenerative practices, ensuring the preservation and rejuvenation of nature for future generations, making it a truly transformative destination.

▶Official website:

Togakushi Universal Tourism Desk (Best Destination Development)

Copyright © 2013 Togakushi Tourism Association.

The Togakushi Universal Tourism Desk (戸隠ユニバーサルツーリズムデスク), a pivotal component of the Togakushi Tourism Association in Nagano, has been instrumental in transforming Togakushi into an accessible destination for all.

By focusing on inclusive tourism, the desk ensures that everyone, including those needing mobility assistance, can explore the rich natural and historical heritage of this ancient pilgrim site without barriers. Offering outdoor wheelchairs and the innovative JINRIKI towing device, the desk enables visitors to engage in activities like trekking, camping, and skiing, which were previously inaccessible to many.

Awarded the “Best Destination Development” Special Recognition, Togakushi’s approach to accessibility has been lauded for allowing travelers with disabilities to enjoy its scenic trails and sacred sites alongside family and friends. This achievement highlights the desk’s success in preserving the beauty and integrity of Togakushi’s natural and historical sites while promoting equality and inclusivity in tourism.

With dedicated Universal Field Concierges, who are knowledgeable about the area’s natural and historical aspects and are wheelchair users themselves, Togakushi stands as a model for developing accessible tourism destinations.

▶Official website:

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Written by

Born and raised in Costa Rica, I started living in Tokyo from college. I love traveling within Japan & around the world. Since I wasn’t born in Japan, I know the cultural impact that you can get when visiting Japan for the first time and what you might be worried about before your trip. And I’ve lived long enough to somewhat understand the nuances of the Japanese culture that make this country such an attractive place to visit. Hopefully I can provide to you both the information you’re looking for and the information you didn’t know you needed to know.