Japan, a land of rich traditions and stunning natural beauty, has always been a dream destination for many travelers. But for me, this trip to Japan was extra special. In November I embarked on this adventure with my 83-year-old mother, who also happens to be a Certified Forest Bathing guide. Our journey took us from the bustling metropolis of Tokyo to the serene and historic city of Kyoto and finally to the mystical Kumano Kodo on the Nakahechi route. This trip was not just about exploring Japan’s famous landmarks; it was a journey of self-discovery, tranquility, and a deeper connection with nature.
TOKYO: The Urban Jungle
Our journey began in Tokyo, Japan’s vibrant and bustling capital city. Skyscrapers reached for the heavens, neon lights illuminated the streets, and the city’s energy was palpable. It was a stark contrast to what awaited us on our trek, but Tokyo had its own unique charm.
My mother’s expertise in forest bathing, or Shinrin Yoku, was a perfect antidote to the fast-paced life of Tokyo. We visited several of the city’s parks, including Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen, where we immersed ourselves in the tranquility of nature amidst the urban jungle. My mother guided me through mindfulness exercises, helping me appreciate the simple beauty of a tree’s rustling leaves or the gentle flow of a stream. It was a calming experience that helped us find pockets of serenity amidst the city’s hustle and bustle.
KYOTO: A Glimpse into the Past
From Tokyo, we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto, a city known for its historical significance and stunning temples. Kyoto felt like a step back in time, with its well-preserved traditional architecture and tranquil gardens.
With my mom as my guide, we explored famous temples like Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) and Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion), where the art of forest bathing merged seamlessly with the Zen philosophy of these sacred places. We practiced mindfulness amidst meticulously manicured gardens and lush bamboo groves, finding inner peace in the process.
KUMANO KODO: A Spiritual Journey
Our journey’s highlight was hiking the famous Kumano Kodo on the Nakahechi route, a network of ancient pilgrimage trails that wind through the Kii Peninsula’s dense forests and lead to the Kumano Sanzan, a trio of sacred shrines. This was where my mother’s expertise truly shone, as forest bathing became an integral part of our trek
As we hiked for five (llllooonnnngggg) days through moss-covered paths, towering cedar trees and treacherous terrain, my Mom would lead us in forest bathing sessions that connected us with the ancient forest spirits and the wisdom of the land. The sounds of chirping birds and the scent of cedar permeated the air, making it a truly immersive experience. It wasn’t just about reaching the destination; it was about the journey itself.
At the Kumano Sanzan shrines along the trail, we paid our respects and found solace in the spirituality of the place. The culmination of our journey was not only a physical achievement but a profound spiritual awakening as well.
Needless to say, our trip to Japan was a transformative experience that allowed me to see the country in a whole new light. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the historical charm of Kyoto and the sacred trails of the Kumano Kodo, every moment was an opportunity to connect with nature and ourselves.
Japan, with its rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural beauty, provided the perfect backdrop for our journey of self-discovery and serenity. With my mother’s guidance, I learned to appreciate the beauty of the present moment and the healing power of nature. It was a trip that left a lasting impact on both my soul and my understanding of the world around me. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend embarking on your own journey of exploration and forest bathing in Japan—it’s an experience like no other.