New Zealanders paving the way for adventure tourism in Japan

New Zealand is recognised globally as a pioneer in adventure tourism and a handful of Kiwis are now paving the way for the industry in Japan.

The government and local operators are turning to them for guidance and help.

An almost 500-year-old forest in Hakone, Japan is the historic and cultural home of Kiwi Tony Everitt's business.

"We operate heritage hiking tours for international visitors to Japan," the Hike Hakone Hachiri founder told Newshub.

It's the old highway. Hundreds of years ago locals would walk 500km - the only way to get from Tokyo south to Kyoto.

"I was interested in it and I thought other internationals will be interested, I was surprised that other guides weren't operating here," Everitt said.

Relaxing by the fire after hiking up Mt Fuji, KODO Travel chief experience officer Shannon Walker guides groups and runs an adventure tourism agency.

"We put together itineraries for travel agencies, mostly overseas, so we don't market direct-to-consumer," he told Newshub.

Both men are paving the way for adventure tourism in Japan, and training local operators around the country.

"Japan's right on the cusp, right at the start line of adventure travel," Walker said.

"They're really keen to learn and develop and they see New Zealand as a pioneer," Everitt said.

Mike Harris has run a canyoning business in Minakami for decades. With his quintessential Kiwi dreadlocks and jandals, he now works at high levels influencing legislation.

"At the government level, a lot of the stuff that was looked at around safety standards in adventure tourism, they all went to New Zealand," he said.

And there's a wee way to go.

"It's like New Zealand was 20 years ago. A few cowboys about, a number of dodgy operators," Harris said.

A number of incidents in the scuba diving sector made the government sit up.

"I was part of the panel, to put in some regulations. Idea was to roll that out to other areas of the adventure tourism industry," Harris said.

But COVID-19 put that on the backburner and there are no guidelines for the wider industry yet.

"Small incremental changes. The cogs turn slowly, but yeah I think we're making some inroads," Walker said.

Even in the more remote parts of Japan the visitor numbers are pretty staggering. This area has a population of around 20,000 people but each year more than 30 million people come and visit it.

"We're really excited about the future of Japan as an adventure tourism destination," Walker said.

"We're all pretty busy. We all see each other sometimes and hand business to each other," Everitt added.

A small group of Kiwis making a big difference abroad.

Newshub travelled to Japan thanks to the Asia New Zealand Foundation.