Inbound Ambassador

Japan’s First Zero-Waste Accreditation System

Akira Sakano is taking Japan’s zero-waste to a new level by working with SME’s to develop zero-waste techniques and strategies.

Akira Sakano has moved from her long-time home in Kamikatsu where she started the scheme, to a new base in Kyoto where she is working on a higher degree while running a consultancy promoting zero-waste with Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SME’s) around Japan.

In this interview, she explains here on the Seeking Sustainability Live Talkshow series how the Zero-Waste accreditation system works and gives some examples of success stories with clients she has worked with since 2020.

Kamikatsu Start

The smallest town on Shikoku island, Kamikatsu, is where the zero-waste accreditation was first developed and implemented with Akira Sakano, Terumi Azuma and other local activists and changemakers collaborating via the Zero-Waste Academy non-profit.

While cities and countries around the world struggle to create stricter policies to reduce and manage waste, Kamikatsu now reaps the benefits of over fifteen years of experience in sustainable development and management. Most recently, at the end in 2017, the Zero Waste Academy launched a new accreditation scheme which has great potential to set a new transparency standard for sustainable business operations in Japan.

6 Kamikatsu Categories of accreditation:

  • Local Food: Use of local products
  • Returnable: Offers reusable and returnable containers
  • Idea: Using original alternatives to avoid single-use products
  • Open for Action: Encourage customers to take part in zero-waste activities
  • BYO: Encourage customers to bring and use their own containers when purchasing items.
  • Local Reuse: upcycling waste materials from the local area

As of May 2018, there were seven businesses in Kamikatsu that had joined the accreditation scheme and another in Nagasaki.
Terumi Azuma, the owner of Cafe Polestar was working as the head of the Zero-Waste Academy for many years and has helped launch the new accreditation scheme. The Polestar cafe proudly adheres to five of the six targets without any indication of any compromise in quality or efficiency. Cafe Polestar is a beautifully designed facility offering diners delicious food with stunning natural views and friendly service. The food, coffee, and desserts are top-class and each plate is beautifully presented with Kamikatsu’s famous decorative leaves.

A short walk up the road brings you to the Ristorante Pertornare which also adheres to five of the six targets at their fine dining restaurant. Additionally, the owner promotes pet rescue and guide-dog support. Target icons are prominently displayed at the front of their restaurant next to an added layer of transparency in business: a chalkboard detailing the source of the day’s vegetables, fish, and meats. Plating of the beautiful course dishes shows how a creative interpretation of a ‘locally sourced’ concept can be embraced as a higher quality branding strategy.

Up a steep and winding path from the valley, visitors will find Bar Irori and its ‘Base Camp’ glamping accommodation tent. This facility treats guests to warm hospitality and incredible views of the green, lush valley below. Using solar panels for power, river water for cooling and upcycled wood for a bar, four of the targets are adopted here and yet customers do not feel they are making a sacrifice due to its following of sustainability targets.

At the start of the valley climb to Kamikatsu, visitors are often surprised and impressed by the unexpected sight of the grid-like layered window of the Rise & Win brewery, bbq, and general store. This facility was entirely built by waste wood and windows redesigned in an innovative way. BYO is one of the three targets they have embraced as customers are encouraged to fill their own containers of not only beer but also cleaning products and spices. Clever design and Portland inspired craft beer enhanced by local citrus fruits to make this a popular stop. Visitors can book a guided tour of the facilities (in Japanese) to learn more.

Up the road from Rise & Win, visitors exit a tunnel to find one of the best valley views at the lookout point and farmer’s market. On the 2nd floor of the market is the Ikkyu Cafe which promotes two of the targets, promoting local foods. The cafe may be simple, but the food is fresh, cheap and delicious and the superb views of the valley are free. Ikkyu is adjacent to the garbage sorting facility and from March 2019, will have a view of the new education and sorting station, called “WHY?” The new facility will be under construction soon by the same designer of the Rise & Win facility, Hiroshima Nakamura & NAP.

The government-run Tsukigatani Onsen (hot-spring spa) hotel restaurant also follows two of the accreditation targets. This is the main accommodation facility in the valley and boasts a biofuel facility as well as adhering to the basis of the zero-waste initiatives.

Next to the river, and across the river from the main hotel, the Panagea company runs a glamping tent as well as a campsite and cottage. Panagea’s owner has a great passion for tourism to Kamikatsu. His company coordinates with the zero-waste academy to provide study and research tours of the garbage sorting facility. Additionally, Panagea’s friendly young staff run active kid-friendly nature adventure activities can organize zero-waste weddings as well as cater to larger group tours.

So much progress has been made in the small town of Kamikatsu since 2003 when the town officials first declared their ambitious target of “zero waste by 2020.” Momentum seems to be building as so much has changed in the last two years since my last visit and the town now seems ready to accept more tourists including international visitors on their own terms.

This is particularly interesting when you consider that most rural communities around Japan are struggling to find ways to appeal to international visitors. Yet Kamikatsu has been able to maintain increased levels of domestic tourists while attracting over 2,000 visitors each year interested in learning more about the zero-waste initiatives.

Kamikatsu town has been able to show steady and organic growth in tourism by first improving existing attractions as well as developing new tourism products and services which abide by zero-waste initiatives. Building from the foundation of a zero-waste policy puts Kamikatsu in a stronger position than most destinations. Leveraging the existing understanding in the community to abide by strict waste reduction and recycling initiatives should ensure stronger long-term growth without compromise.

In this way, Kamikatsu is uniquely in a position of a truly sustainable tourism destination.
I feel we can expect to see the momentum continue to build as Kamikatsu opens its new facility “Why?” in 2019. This new facility will allow the town to welcome more visitors to its town for education as well as leisure.

Visitors who come to Kamikatsu will be impressed by the high-quality of businesses and tourism products and be able to appreciate it on a higher level once they realize operations are maintained in line with strict zero-waste initiatives.
The story of Kamikatsu is a story of hope. Strict regulations to effectively manage waste and encourage the use of local products can strengthen communities and create a lasting legacy of true sustainability- that balances the needs of the environment with people and profits. Rural destinations hoping to tap into the tourism boom should look to Kamikatsu for insight on how to develop products that do not compromise the integrity and local identity of a destination.

上勝町 新たな認証制度始まる

Local Food  地産地消 
Returnable 再利用可能包装材 等
Idea 使い捨てに代わるものを考える
Open for Action 情報発信やお客様の積極的な参加
BYO 持ち帰り用のボットルや容器の持参
Local Reuse 地域内のごみの発生を抑える


ゼロ・ウェイストアカデミの事務局長を長年務めた東輝実さんは今回の新しい認証制度の発足に関わってきました。「カフェ・ポールスター」のオーナーでもある東さんは自分のカフェで六つの内、五つの区分を質や効率を落とすことなく難なくこなしています。 美しいデザインのカフェ・ポールスターはおいしい食事に加えて自然の絶景や親しみやすいサービスをお客様に提供します。食事やコーヒ、デザートなどどれもが最高級の味と上勝町の有名な彩でいただけます。


谷から急な曲がりくねった坂道を上ると「Bar IRORI」とそこにあるグランピング・テントが見えてきます。最高のもてなしとともに眼下に広がる緑豊かな谷の絶景があります。お客様のニーズにこたえながら、ここでは屋根にソラーパネル、冷却用に川の水、またバーカウンターが再利用材であることを含めて4つの区分を取り入れて営業しています。

上勝町への谷の入り口にさしかかったお客様は上を見上げて驚きながらアッとされるのは「RISE & WIN Brewery, BBQ and General Store」 のマス目のような窓外観です。革新的なデサインのこの店はすべてが廃材から作られています。BYOをビールのグラスだけではなく、掃除製品やスパイスのための容器も含めて3つの目標を維持しています。独創的なデサインと地元産の柑橘類を加えたアメリカ生まれのクラフトビールがこの店の人気の秘密です。建物のツーアも予約で来ます。

RISE and WINの先にあるトンネルを抜けると一番ともいえる展望台の絶景とファマーズ・マーケットにたどり着きます。いっきゅう茶屋はマーケットの2回にあります。ここでは地元産の食材を中心に2つの目標に取り組んでいます。シンプルな店内でありながら新鮮で美味しい食事を安く提供しています。そのうえ谷の素晴らしい全貌は無料です。いっきゅうのそばには上勝町のゴミステーションがあります。ここでは間もなくRISE & WINを手掛けたHIROSHIMA Nakamura & NAPのデザインされた新しい教育センターと分別施設の建設が始まります。WHYと名つけられた施設は2019年3月完成予定です。









Japanese Translation by Associate Professor, Andrea Kitahara / 翻訳:準教授 北原アンドレア

日本語:ゼロ・ウェイスト認証制度の基礎 / Introduction to the Zero Waste Accreditation system