Ancient island opens up to new visitors

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The Independent Online

The protected Japanese island of Yakushima is increasingly on the map, attracting more tourists -- both domestic and from overseas -- to its unique environment.

(Relaxnews) -

The protected Japanese island of Yakushima is increasingly on the map, attracting more tourists - both domestic and from overseas - to its unique environment.

Rewarded with recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, Yakushima lies south of the southern prefecture of Kagoshima and covers around 500 square kilometers. With just 15,000 residents, it has become famous for its dense forests, ancient Cryptomeria trees and magnificent rhododendrons - attracting 300,000 visitors every year.

Efforts are also under way to bring in more visitors from outside Japan to the island, although residents and the local authorities insist that a balance must be achieved between tourism and the pristine natural environment, one which is a stopping-off point for migrating sea turtles and home to several unique species, including deer, monkeys and vast numbers of insects.

Already the site of a number of hotels, such as the Yakushima Iwasaki Hotel and the Akatsuki, as well as several traditional "ryokan" style establishments, a new hotel project is under way that its creators hope will bring together living in harmony with the environment and top-quality vacation accommodation and facilities - two concepts that are often difficult to conciliate.

Finishing touches are currently being applied to The Sankara Hoteal and Spa, which is due to open in March. Sankara is the Sanskrit word for "bounty from heaven" and its creators want the boutique, French-style resort to harmoniously co-exist with its surroundings.

Situated on elevated ground surrounded by towering hills covered by ancient tropical rain forest, the hotel will have just 29 rooms, including five suites, three restaurants and a state-of-the-art spa facility.

Executive chef Chiharu Takei creates innovative dishes inspired by French cuisine but making the most of local ingredients; the spa offers a unique skin treatment that uses aromatic Asian herb oils.

Equally impressive is the hotel operator's commitments to the island, its people and the local economy. The company will have its head office located on the island and employ local staff, employees will be encouraged to take part in volunteer activities and the facility will be run with a long-term perspective in order to benefit the local people for generations to come.

The restaurants' ingredients will also be procured locally or grown in a garden in the grounds of the hotel, while each guest will also be asked to pay Y500 (€3.85) that will be placed in the Sakara Fund, designed to protect nature and the environment on Yakushima.

For more information, +81 3 6419 9278 or http://sankarahotel-spa.com/en/

JR

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