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Visit GifuIn a global celebration of cultural preservation, scenic beauty, and sustainable tourism, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has unveiled its prestigious list of “Best Tourism Villages 2023.” This annual accolade honors villages that have taken remarkable strides in nurturing rural areas, preserving landscapes, cultural diversity, local values, and culinary traditions.

This year’s list comprises 54 villages worldwide, all distinguished for their outstanding tourism initiatives dedicated to safeguarding traditions and cultures. Japan, in particular, has made an impressive mark on this global stage, securing four coveted spots on the list. These Japanese villages have captivated travellers with their exceptional offerings and showcased an unwavering commitment to preserving their rich cultural heritage while championing sustainable practices.

The Japanese Gems

  1. Biei, Hokkaido: Nestled within the breathtaking expanse of Daisetsuzan National Park, Japan’s largest national park, Biei has been designated a National Special Natural Monument. This village actively promotes efforts to preserve its pristine natural ecosystem, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and conservationists.
  2. Hakuba, Nagano: Renowned for its world-class skiing conditions during the winter months, Hakuba has also emerged as a leader in inclusive tourism and sustainability. With a bold mission to achieve 100 percent energy self-sufficiency through renewable resources such as hydroelectric power, Hakuba is setting the standard for environmentally responsible travel destinations.
  3. Oku-Matsushima, Miyagi: Tucked away in the serene Matsushima Bay, Oku-Matsushima boasts a rich history dating back to the prehistoric Jomon and Yayoi periods. The village proudly hosts the Oku-Matsushima Olle Trail, an eco-friendly hiking course symbolic of international friendships, providing visitors with a unique cultural experience.
  4. Shirakawa, Gifu: Step into the picturesque world of Shirakawa, where traditional gassho-zukuri (thatched-roof) houses endure the region’s harsh winters. This village’s unwavering focus on sustainable conservation efforts preserves these remarkable structures and contributes significantly to the area’s economic growth by sharing its storied history with visitors.

A Global Recognition

The UNWTO’s Best Tourism Villages 2023 list is a testament to the growing importance of sustainable tourism and cultural preservation. These villages exemplify the harmonious coexistence of nature, tradition, and innovation. As travellers increasingly seek destinations honouring their cultural heritage and the environment, these villages inspire them.

Please visit their official website to explore the complete list of villages recognized by UNWTO.

These four Japanese villages have shown the way forward in a world where cultural preservation and sustainable practices are paramount. They invite travellers to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature and tradition while positively impacting the world.




Written by: Yves Thomas