This paper on nature-based tourism in protected areas of Japan highlights the policy and institutional arrangements of Japan’s unique park administrative system, and presents an overview of park tourism in the country. Common trends and challenges to park tourism that emerge from the overview include a focus on guiding aspect of ecotourism; the issue of “I-turns” and definitions of “local community;” regulation of tourists entering protected areas; roles of the local and prefectural governments to provide institutional support for ecotourism in a market already dominated by the private sector; and difficulties in developing ecotourism under the current Japanese national park management system. The paper emphasizes the importance of local community consensus and participation for sustainable park tourism management, and highlights the opportunities for multi-stakeholder partnership that have been made possible by recent amendments to the National Parks Law. The paper ends with the proposal that community-based nature tourism has a potentially critical role to play in facilitating effective integrated protected area management in the future.
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