The Environment Ministry will introduce new measures to draw more foreign tourists to Japan’s eight national parks by 2020, when the country will host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, ministry sources said Saturday.
The new measures include tours to areas that are currently off limits in Lake Akan in Hokkaido, known for its population of marimo balls of green algae, and improvements to cycling roads in the prairie of the Aso-Kuju National Park, which straddles Kumamoto and Oita prefectures.
The ministry currently does not allow tours to Akan National Park, where marimo can be found clustered in the lake. But the ministry plans to allow small groups for canoeing and trekking tours with a guide, according to the sources.
The ministry will also bury overhead power lines on cycling roads in the Aso-Kuju park so riders can have more beautiful views and allow tourists to observe colonies of rare flowers and watch terrain which has been affected by natural disasters such as major earthquakes in Kumamoto in April.
The plan to draw more tourists to the eight parks is part of the ministry’s efforts to take the number of foreign visitors to national parks to 10 million in 2020, more than double the present number.
It has earmarked a total of 20 billion yen ($187.4 million) in the second supplementary budget for fiscal 2016 through March, which was approved at parliament last month, and a draft full-year budget for fiscal 2017.
The ministry is also considering asking visitors to bear some of the cost of environmental conservation, the sources said.