The Japanese have developed, how should we say it, a rather unique approach to wellness. It’s what you’d expect from a nation that was in near-total isolation for centuries before finally opening up to Europe and being influenced by all things Western.
It’s exactly this blend, between old and new, East and West, that has resulted in wellness offerings that can be eagerly embraced by all, whoever you are and wherever you come from.
And the end result of these unique, rejuvenating experiences, is a lot of oohing and ahhing and blissful states of total relaxation and zen. In other words, unforgettable moments that you could only ever have in Japan…
Here are five of these unforgettable wellness moments, just waiting for you on your next de-stressing getaway in the Land of the Rising Sun…
Ready to feel like a million bucks again?
1. Take a Forest Bath
Yes, it’s a thing!
The rejuvenating effects of spending time in the woods have been known for centuries, but it was the Japanese who made a concerted effort to trump the mental and physical benefits of walking in forested areas and letting the trees and leaves and damp moss soothe the stresses of the working day away as birds chirp and streams babble on by.
Known as shinrin-yoku in Japanese, forest bathing is an extremely popular and effective way to experience the amazing outdoors in Japan whilst cultivating wellness. There are literally forests all over the Japanese archipelago to bathe in, but some of the best spots are Bijin Bayashi Forest in Tōkamachi in Niigata Prefecture and Kirishima-Yaku National Park on Yakushima island.
2. Go glamping in nature
Experience the serenity of sleeping under the stars, wake up to bird song and epic sunrises, and recharge your batteries – all without sacrificing on comfort. There are dozens of glamping resorts all over Japan, in forests and mountain ranges and traditional onsen villages, and near rivers, coastlines, snow action and more.
If the term is new to you, glamping is camping with a five-star twist. It’s basically outdoor lodging with the luxe dialled up to 11, where DIY is replaced with hotel hospitality.
Glamping sites are fully staffed and furnished, where the only thing you bring is yourself. All food is prepared by amazing chefs, comfy bedding comes included, and all tents – think yurts, teepees, or even futuristic dome-shaped contraptions – are already assembled and come with their own modern bathrooms with showers or bathtubs.
Believe us: you won’t want to leave…
Especially if you opt to stay at the Starry Sky Forest Camping Village in Motegi which lies in the southeastern Tochigi Prefecture (around two hours from Tokyo). Enjoy the views of wooded forests and rice terraces and check out the fast-paced action at the Twin Ring Motegi racetrack during the day, and then look up at the galaxy once the sun goes down for some amazing views of the Milky Way. You won’t even need a telescope…
3. Soak the stress away in a Japanese onsen
Ah, a Japanese classic. The Japanese onsen or hot spring is the creme-de-la-creme of wellness in Japan, and every moment you spend soaking the stresses of life away in naturally-heated, minerally-rich water, is truly unforgettable.
Core to Japanese culture for centuries, the healing properties of water are the backbone of the wellness industry in Japan, manifesting in thousands of baths, saunas and steam rooms all over the country in all sorts of amazing landscapes and contexts.
Like forest bathing, you can literally soothe your way to bliss all over this archipelago nation built on fiery volcanic foundations. We’ve already touted the praises of Manza and Minakami Onsen, both in Gunma Prefecture, especially in winter. But another amazing onsen town to try is Beppu city in Oita prefecture in the southern Japanese island of Kyushu.
4. Space out in the best spa in the world
The Japanese have given the traditional onsen experience a modern twist and developed some of the best spas in the world.
For example, the Aman Spa at Amanemu on Ago Bay on Honshu’s Kii Peninsula is a sprawling spa complex that draws on the art of Kampo herbal healing to relax, soothe and rejuvenate body, mind and soul through traditional rituals lasting an hour or an entire day.
Also incorporating shiatsu massage, meditation, acupuncture, yoga, watsu (water) therapy and a specialised diet, this modern spa experience has been designed to reduce tension and promote wellbeing. And, of course, their onsen are top-notch too!
5. Attend a traditional tea ceremony
A traditional tea ceremony cultivates mindfulness and encourages gratitude – which is definitely something in short supply these days – leaving you feeling at peace and stress-free, whilst promoting a general feeling of wellbeing.
Indeed, one of the central goals of a Japanese tea ceremony is for the participant to achieve a peaceful state of mind. So, naturally, you gotta try this…
A tea ceremony is based on century-old rituals that also give you a fascinating insight into Japanese culture. First, the water is boiled by the temple priest in an iron kettle. Then, the matcha tea is added, in total mindfulness and concentration. After that, the tea is poured into a ceramic bowl and passed around for sipping, denoting the importance of sharing and community in Japanese society.
One of the best places to experience a traditional tea ceremony in English outside of the major tourist hotspots is down at Okinawa Sasagirian on the southern island of Okinawa. Most ceremonies last around 45 minutes.
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