Sustainable Tourism in Japan - innovation & inspiration

SUPuraEyes As Viable Ecotourism Product

I’ve just discovered the joys of combining exercise with plastic cleanups. Getting outside in beautiful weather to help clean up the waterways of plastic pollution, while skimming along is a relaxing way to help out and get fit. Wouldn’t it be fun to call it #SUPura #サップラ or even better, #SUPuraEyes #サップラアイズ

  • SUP+Pura+Eyes
  • SUP = Stand Up Paddle
  • Pura = Japanese term for plastic
  • Eyes = because you seek out trash

I like that it sounds like ‘surprise’ which makes it fun and easy to remember.

To anyone who is already an active SUPer, it’s unlikely I am introducing anything new to you. There are many SUPers and Kayakers in Japan actively cleaning up while enjoying exercise on the river. Japanese surfers also have a long history of cleaning up the beaches before and after riding waves.

As many cities in Japan have wonderful rivers, canals, and calm waterways in addition to easy access down to the water, there are many Japanese destinations perfectly poised to host SUP #ecotourism activities.

Ecotourism is often confused with nature-based-tourism or nature-based-sightseeing, but true Ecotourism is an activity that takes visitors out to enjoy natural surroundings without creating pollution of any kind. So, ecotourism should have the aim of improving the environment in some way through the activity. Ecotourism, therefore should not have any use of fossil fuels- so bicycles, walking, SUP, kayaking, surfing are all perfect.

To qualify as ecotourism, there shouldn’t be any use of wasteful plastic bags or single-use materials of any kind. So, if your SUP tour includes a plastic bento, it can’t be termed Ecotourism.

This may be one of the reasons Ecotourism options are few and far between in Japan (and around the world) since it may seem too hard to do. I sometimes see tourism products claim to be ecotourism for a walk in the forest or boat tour, but if you are being transported in fossil fuel based cars, boats, and being given PET plastic water bottles while enjoying nature, it is not ecotourism.

Hiroshima is a perfect location for SUPuraEyes activities as the rivers have easy access with stairs leading down to the water. There’s an active SUPer community in Hiroshima around the MagicIsland Shop that organizes a range of events along the river and beaches all year. I know the owner also regularly does riverside and beach clean-ups.

Other destinations in Japan from Hokkaido to the Okinawan islands should be able to set up SUPura activities as a part of SUP rentals and tours without too much initial cost investment. SUPuraEyes tours could easily catch on as a viable ecotourism product.

On an individual level, if you have an inflatable SUP board, it is possible to pack it up and ride a bicycle or walk to the set-off point with the inflatable SUP board on your back. It wouldn’t be too much trouble to take it onto a bus or train either as it is still smaller than a suitcase.

Take a rubber glove and a bag with you to collect any plastic garbage you see along the way and aim to fill at least one back during your workout. I have been able to fill a bag in the first 20 minutes.

If looking for plastic garbage, head for any grassy area or mangroves along the side of the waterway. You will soon realize that the reeds, mangroves, tree root systems & long marshy grass along the river acts as a catchment for plastic bottles and trash which makes it easy to collect.

Have a SUPer day!

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