April 13, 2024

From the hottest new attractions in Tokyo to Japan’s most beautiful destinations, there’s so much to see and do when you visit Japan. It can get a bit overwhelming at times, but to help you narrow down your travel to-do list, you’ll want to check out the just-announced winners of the Japan Travel Awards, an annual competition that highlights outstanding travel destinations and operators around the country.

Back for the third year, the Japan Travel Awards are dedicated to shining a light on remarkable destinations that promote diversity, inclusion, sustainability and exceptional hospitality. This year, the awards have highlighted ten winners, which have been selected by a panel of judges including travel experts, designers and business professionals.

Planning a visit to Japan? You’ll want to add these award-winning destinations to your travel itinerary.

Japan Travel Awards Zerogravity
Photo: Shiitake Creative

Grand Prix Winner: Zerogravity (Amami Oshima, Kagoshima)

Zerogravity, a marine activity provider, takes this year’s grand prize for its unique approach towards inclusivity. This centres on creating marine sports that can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of physical abilities or limitations. The company offers a number of accessible tours and accommodation options, including activities such as scuba diving, whale watching and snorkelling.

Japan Travel Awards Naniwa Issui
Photo: Shiitake Creative

Best Accessible Travel: Naniwa Issui (Matsue, Shimane)

This long-established ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) is an example of a truly exceptional accommodation experience. The inn offers ten stunning wheelchair-accessible rooms as well as accessible bathing areas (both in-room and communal), and other services catered towards travellers with disabilities. Naniwa Issui first introduced a single accessible room back in 2006 and has since continued efforts towards breaking down barriers for the benefit of all travellers.

Japan Travel Awards Hotel Palm Royal Naha
Photo: Shiitake Creative

Best LGBTQ+ Friendly: Hotel Palm Royal Naha (Naha, Okinawa)

Hotel Palm Royal Naha’s corporate philosophy aims to make Okinawa the ‘Diversity Island’ by openly celebrating diversity and welcoming travellers from all walks of life. The hotel works towards establishing a safer and engaging place for all members of the LGBTQ+ community, all while sharing the vibrant culture of Okinawa. Additionally, the hotel hosts and sponsors regular events that help empower the local LGBTQ+ community.

Japan Travel Awards Okinawa Diving Service Lagoon
Photo: Shiitake Creative

Best Sustainable Travel: Okinawa Diving Service Lagoon (Onna, Okinawa)

Okinawa Diving Service Lagoon started out as a coral conservation activity before turning into a fun yet educational diving experience contributing to environmental protection. Participants get to help make coral seedlings and plant coral while diving and snorkelling around Okinawa’s beautiful waters.

Japan Travel Awards Temple Stay Kakurinbo
Photo: Shiitake Creative

Best Inbound Travel: Temple Stay Kakurinbo (Minobu, Yamanashi)

Kakurinbo is one of the largest and oldest temple stay facilities in the town of Minobu. Stays here are notably foreigner-friendly and include experiences such as morning readings, shojin ryori (vegetarian monk cuisine) cooking, crafting washi paper, participating in a tea ceremony, and much more. 

Japan Travel Awards Naniwa Issui
Photo: Shiitake Creative

Special Recognition Awards, Best Accommodation: Naniwa Issui (Matsue, Shimane)

Along with winning Best Accessible Travel, Naniwa Issui has also been given a special recognition award for Best Accommodation thanks to its outstanding service and unparalleled customer experience. It’s rare to come across a ryokan that welcomes everyone, especially by accommodating the needs of those with disabilities.

Japan Travel Awards Ama Hut Satoumian
Photo: Shiitake Creative

Special Recognition Awards, Best Cultural Travel: Ama Hut Satoumian (Shima, Mie)

Ama Hut Satoumian is a special restaurant and cultural experience where visitors can dine with ama divers, the traditional female freedivers who are an integral part of Japan’s seaside communities. At the restaurant, you can enjoy fresh, charcoal-grilled seafood from around the Ise-Shima area as well as learn more about the divers’ unique work and history. Additionally, the restaurant features three individual rooms including a wheelchair-accessible room.

Japan Travel Awards Mori no Kuni Valley
Photo: Shiitake Creative

Special Recognition Awards, Best Family Travel: Mori no Kuni Valley (Matsuno, Ehime)

The Mori no Kuni Valley initiative works towards creating an eco-village with various stay options and outdoor experiences while teaching children and adults alike the importance of preserving and coexisting with nature. The initiative offers many family-friendly accommodation options as well as annual kids’ camps and other nature-filled activities.

Japan Travel Awards INOW
Photo: Shiitake CreativeINOW

Special Recognition Awards, Best Transformative Travel: INOW (Kamikatsu, Tokushima) and Tautasya (Miyama, Kyoto)

Two winners have been selected under this category including INOW, an educational programme providing guests with sustainable stay experiences in the homes of residents of Kamikatsu, Japan’s first zero-waste town. The second winner is Tautasya, an eco-village in Kyoto offering numerous lodgings, a restaurant, outdoor activities and farming experiences, all based around sustainability efforts.

Japan Travel Awards Togakushi Universal Tourism Desk
Photo: Shiitake Creative

Special Recognition Awards, Best Destination Development: Togakushi Universal Tourism Desk (Togakushi, Nagano)

Togakushi Universal Tourism Desk is part of the local Togakushi Tourism Association and works towards promoting accessible tourism in the popular ancient pilgrim site of Togakushi in Nagano prefecture. Through their efforts, this popular destination has helped support dozens of travellers with mobility disabilities, including by offering offroad and outdoor wheelchairs as well as by creating a local barrier-free travel map.

For more on the Japan Travel Awards, visit the website

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