Sports Tourism in Japan

Budo and the Outdoors


Unless you’ve been living in a cave, there’s no denying the explosion in Japan’s popularity as a top tourist destination. In recent years, international visitors have arrived in record-breaking numbers and publications can’t seem to get enough of the ryokan, matcha, and sumo – among countless other cultural happenings and traditions.

While the Japan experience can take many shapes and forms, many invariably seek what they cannot experience outside of Japan. It’s no surprise then, that the Japan Sports Agency has made valiant efforts this year to capture both the domestic and international tourist market through sports and fitness.

Here, we highlight their campaign to spread the concept of budo tourism among martial arts aficionados and more broadly, those interested in learning about unique Japanese traditions. We also introduce the agency’s outdoor sports tourism video – a well-crafted campaign that will be of particular interest to the active and fitness-minded.

Official Campaign Title: Budo Tourism Japan – The Spirits of Budo

Kendo, judo, aikido, sumo, kyudo, are just a handful of Japanese martial arts disciplines known collectively as budo (learn more here). Today, budo may be considered by many to be the pinnacle of Japanese culture and the epitome of Japanese values.

Modern Japanese martial arts intrigues both Japanese nationals and visitors from abroad. At the dojo, there are no brochures to read or audio recordings to listen to. Hence, the language barrier proves less formidable in the observation and practice of budo, which focuses more on personal development, self-awareness and cultural considerations rather than ‘fighting’ in combat or for self-defense. 

But beyond creating a flashy video, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly what is being done to strengthen budo tourism in Japan. There’s very little clue as to where in Japan these experiences take place nor whom to contact.

In addition, it it seems like the campaign’s subtitle should be singular (“the spirit of Budo”) but we’ll settle for the seemingly haunted angle. Perhaps they’re implying that each discipline is a spirit. We’ll also ignore the mysterious Japanese habit of randomly using all-caps, as in ‘BUDO Tourism Japan’. 

Read the campaign press release (Japanese).

The Outdoors

Official Campaign Title: Outdoor Sports Tourism Japan – Feel The Force of Nature

For the outdoorsy souls, Japan offers myriad options to feed the competitive streak – or feel the force of nature. Earlier this month (December 2018), the Japan Sports Agency released a campaign video which dramatically highlights everything from whitewater rafting to cycling, trail running and winter sports.  

Domestic travelers and international visitors alike will undoubtedly be awe-inspired by the video’s spectacular scenes featuring brilliant shades of forest green, ocean blue, and white powder snow. Combined with quotes meant to entice visitors of all ages and interests to explore Japan’s outdoors, the video showcases Japan in all of its natural, seasonal glory. 

Of course, it’s not Japan without the use of  somewhat nonsensical English. Evocative keywords are utilized in bite-size pieces but put together, the overall message being conveyed is less certain, if not convoluted. Similar to the budo tourism campaign, it’s unclear whether the Japan Sports Agency has or will address accessibility and development of outdoor activities/ sports tourism in Japan, especially for international visitors. 

Do It for the 'gram

Have some #epic sports shots? The Japan Sports Agency is looking for photos that highlight the best of sports in Japan!

Whether you’re shredding the powder snow at Hakuba,  swimming like a dolphin in Okinawa, or racing the trails of Nagano, it’s all game. Share them on Instagram and use the #スポーツツーリズム2018 hashtag.

Anyone can use the hashtag but if you’re in it to win it, you have to live in Japan and follow the Japan Sports Agency’s Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Photos must be posted with the hashtag by January 10, 2019 and Instagram profiles must be public. Learn more (Japanese). 

Did You Know...

Japan boasts approximately 500 ski areas

About 68% of land in Japan is classified as "forest"

You can explore more than 30,000KM of coastline across Japan

There are more 18,000 mountains dotting the nation

After all the outdoor sports, you can rest and relax at one of more than 27,000 hot springs

Formally established in late 2015, the Japan Sports Agency (JSA) is responsible for well, all things sports in the land of the rising sun. With no less than eleven policy agendas prominently displayed on their website, the JSA appears to carry a broad mandate.

As a new government agency, their presence may not yet be well-known but their value will surely only increase as Japan plays host to the Rugby World Cup (2019), the Olympics and Paralympics (2020) and the World Masters Games (2021).