• Kyodo

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The Environment Ministry will introduce new measures to draw more foreign tourists to eight of Japan’s national parks by 2020, when the country will host the Summer Olympics, according to ministry sources.

The measures are to include tours to areas currently off-limits in Lake Akan in Hokkaido, which is known for its population of marimo balls of green algae as well as improvements to cycling roads in the prairie of 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 along cycling roads in Aso-Kuju National Park so riders can have better views and allow tourists to observe colonies of rare flowers and view terrain affected by natural disasters, including the series of major earthquakes that rocked 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 earmarked ¥20 billion in the second supplementary budget for fiscal 2016 through March, which was approved in the Diet last month, and the draft full-year budget for fiscal 2017.

The ministry is also considering asking visitors to bear some of the costs of environmental conservation, the sources added.

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