Forest Bathing in Kanazawa – Experience the Art of Mindfulness
Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin Yoku is a practice that combines a range of mindfulness exercises in a forest environment. The Japanese word "shinrin" means forest while "yoku" means bath - therefore, the two words combined mean taking a bath in the forest atmosphere. It is very popular in Japan and especially the forests of Kyoto are the famous spots that tourists often associate with this practice. But Kyoto is not the only place in Japan where you can enjoy a mystical forest atmosphere. In this article, you will not only learn more about the practice itself but also where to find beautiful forest bathing places in Kanazawa, Ishikawa. And there are a lot of different spots to discover!
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing is an important aspect of Japan as the forest plays an important role in Japanese culture: every community of Japan has its own unique traditions and history with the forest that is surrounding it and cherishes this bond with various festivities.
Forest bathing belongs to the so called Nature therapy, a group of methods with the goal to improve the mental and physical health of human beings with the help of nature.
Going through the forest and taking in the atmosphere via all five senses – hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting – should help you reconnect with nature as this connection gets lost so easily in today's hectic (city) life.
What Are The Benefits?
The practice of forest bathing in general has become more and more attractive for Western societies, as many people there suffer from the stress of their busy work lives. Due to the negative effects of this lifestyle, mindfulness returned into the focus of many people these days as it is a crucial way of gaining back a calm body and soul – a condition that is desired a nowadays. Therefore, forest bathing is very appealing method on the way to train mindfulness and focus on peace and serenity in our lives. On top, you can experience nature in a conscious way that might be a new approach for you.
Forest bathing can have very positive effects on your health: it can level down high blood pressure, lower your pulse level and reduce the level of stress induced hormones in your blood. Next to these effects on your physical health it also makes you feel calmer and more relaxed: you reconnect your body with your mind. By using all your senses to experience the forest surroundings, you practice your mindfulness capabilities, and this can even help to reduce the risk of depression or anxiety!
Forest Bathing in Kanazawa – Where Can I Go?
If you are in Kanazawa and want to try it out for yourself, where should you go? There are various places in and around the city that are suitable for a solid forest bathing experience. I’ve listed my favorite three spots for you:
1. Kanazawa City, DT Suzuki Museum
Along the outside of this small museum you will find a very small passage that is called Midori-no-Komichi (“green path”) that runs through Honda Park and leads you to other museums uphill. The path is in the middle of the busy Kanazawa city center but as soon as you enter it, you forget about that immediately. Find peace and serenity in the dark green woods of the city center! Positive side effect: you pass some interesting museums that are worth a visit.
Location: 3 Chome-4-20 Hondamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0964, Japan
2. Yuwaku Onsen
About 20 minutes of bus drive from the city center lies Yuwaku Onsen, a small village in the mountainside of Kanazawa. It’s famous for its hot spring hotels. Of course, you can also visit the public bath if you want to relax in the healthy hot water of the onsen after your forest bathing tour. Various hiking trails surround the village where you can discover mystical shrines, a lake and other scenic spots. If you are culturally interested, you can also visit Edo Mura, a museum site consisting of historical and traditional houses from the Edo Period.
Location: 1-30-1 Yuwakutagojimamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-1124, Japan
3. Mount Iouzen (939 m)
This mountain close to Kanazawa is the gate to a lush green forest nature. Located about a 40 minutes’ drive from of the city away, the mountain is surrounded by big forests where you can have a long and quiet walk. Trekking trails are well maintained and invite for a nice hike. However, be very careful as the forests are also the homes of bears and boars! Please always check the information of the local authorities and notify them that you are visiting the area before you enter the woods.
Location: Teko-21 Tawaramachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-1108, Japan
You don’t want to go out on your own and prefer to be guided by experienced staff? Check out the forest bathing tour of Tabitaiken: they offer beginner and advanced tours with certified nature guides that can not only show you beautiful forest spots in Kanazawa but also tell you more about the plants and wild animals you will encounter. Check their website or their Facebook page for more information.
How Does it Work?
To experience forest bathing for yourself, all you need is time and access to a forest or a park. There are no rules on how to proceed and what to do exactly. 20 minutes can already have a significant effect to your health so that you will be able to feel a difference.
And how to start? Walk around without any purpose or goal in mind, just follow interesting sounds or scents. Your body will guide you where it wants you to go and you can really focus on your surroundings: how many different sounds (like bird sounds) do you hear? How does it smell for you? How does the tree stem feel under your palms? Move consciously and try to slow down your body and mind.
After some minutes you will feel that it will be easier for you to focus on your sensory perception. If you find a beautiful place, you can sit down and watch your surroundings from a seated position. You can also lie down and watch the sky through the branches. Whatever feels comfortable for you!
If you like meditating or yoga, feel free to do some of those exercises. Whatever helps you best to stay in the moment. In my opinion, meditating underneath a tree in nature is a great experience that I recommend to everyone.
It requires mental discipline to focus on the meditational aspect and to really let go. Therefore, it is important to leave all possible distractors at home like your mobile phone or your camera. It’s not about taking pictures of trees or sharing your experience in a social network. Focus on your senses and try to stay in the moment, don’t let any worries of your daily life distract you. It will take some sessions until it feels easier for you. Therefore, I recommend practicing often.
I hope you can enjoy your own session of forest bathing soon and try it out for yourselves!