The increased popularity of automobiles in recent decades has made it easier to access Japan’s natural parks. Moreover, the use of the parks has only risen with increase in leisure time and income. While this certainly is a desirable development, it has resulted in a deterioration of once-pleasant park environments through overuse of park facilities and abandoned litters. It poses a threat to the inherent natural qualities of the parks themselves.
In order to address these problems, the Nature Conservation Council expressed the view that the Environment Agency (the responsible agency at the time) “should consider asking users to bear part of the cost of maintaining and managing Japan’s natural parks, which constitute a valuable natural asset, from the view that they should be maintained with the participation and cooperation of the broader public in addition to public organizations.”
Although the Environment Agency looked into passing some of the financial burden onto users through admission fees or the likes, it was though that imposing a charge as a “cooperation fee” using park facilities would fit the actual situation as well as be something that citizens would find easy to understand. Thus provisionally, visitor who use parking lots and campsites were asked for “cooperation fees.”
In order to manage and maintain the parks primarily by cooperation fees paid on June 29, 1979, the Natural Parks Beautification and Management Foundation was established with Prime Ministerial approval.
The Foundation had the goal of promoting the beautification and cleaning of Japan’s natural parks and the appropriate maintenance and management of their user facilities. The organization was named as “Natural Parks Beautification and Management Foundation” in recognition of the goal.
Nevertheless, the park users today are looking for various activities that involve contact with nature. As such, the duties of the Foundation have multiplied. It now provides information to park users, implementing activities that involve direct contact with nature, and supporting volunteer activities. In response to these changes, the name of the Foundation was revised to the “Natural Parks Foundation” on July 1, 2002.
The Foundation restructured itself from a public interest corporation into a general incorporated foundation, which allowed more operational latitude. In April 2011, it reached its current form as the “Natural Parks Foundation (a general incorporated foundation).” Though it has become a general incorporated foundation, the Foundation has no intention of becoming a profit-oriented commercial entity. As before, we will maintain and manage the natural parks and continue to facilitate the direct experience and enjoyment of nature.