Travel Magazine

Embark on a Spiritual Journey to Japan

By Enchantingtravels

Though it is known for advanced technological prowess and modernity, Japan is also a country of spiritual traditions. Travel to Japan to engage with this heritage, from sacred Shinto shrines to Buddhist Zen gardens, pilgrim trails to hot spring retreats. 

Meditation

Cleansing the soul and finding equilibrium is at the core of zazen meditation courses offered at many Zen temples in Japan. At Tokyo’s Kuonji temple, a two-hour guided meditation session is a good way to kick off a spiritual journey of healing and calm.

Japan’s Zen gardens, called karesansui, are serene physical spaces designed to elevate mental processes to a higher plane of awareness. The simplicity and purity of the dry rocky landscape of these gardens induces a state of contemplation and calm. Kyoto’s Tenryuji and Ryoanji temples, among countless others around the country, have Zen gardens that offer travelers the opportunity for deep reflection.

Enchanting Travels Japan Tours Kyoto, Japan at Kinkaku-ji, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion at duskThe Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto

Forest bathing

Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku is the Japanese concept of mingling with and soaking in the atmosphere of a forest, using all five senses. Guides take visitors for a session, which helps them focus on nature and absorb its calming aspects, leading to a physical slowing down of breathing and heart rate. This experience in stillness and mindfulness is known to have a therapeutic effect on physical and mental wellbeing. Forest bathing is possible all over Japan, from the ancient cedar forests of Yakushima National Park to soaring bamboo groves of Sagano Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama. 

Embark on a Spiritual Journey to JapanArashiyama Bamboo Forest

Hot springs

A more literal concept of bathing is available at Japan’s mineral-rich hot springs or onsens. Unlike western-style spas, however, Japanese onsen practice is rooted in spirituality and the purification of body and soul. At traditional inns or ryokans, for instance in Hakone and Yudanaka Onsen near Nagano, you can imbibe the healing properties of water in public onsens, or in your own private, steaming outdoor tub. 

Outdoor onsenOutdoor onsen in Japan

Buddhist rituals

For another mystical adventure connected to the natural world, travel to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mount Koyasan, the birthplace of Shingon Buddhism. Here visitors walk mountain paths with breath-taking views, explore historical sites like the Okunoin cemetery, or witness a Shojingu ritual ceremony. Part of the holistic spiritual experience involves staying at a shukubo or Buddhist temple lodge. Guests sleep on modest tatami mats and dine on temple cuisine or shojin-ryori, simple, traditional vegetarian Buddhist fare. 

Enchanting Travels Asia Japan Vacations - Koyasan - Mt. Koya 2UNESCO World Heritage Site Mount Koyasan

Pilgrim trails

For a more intense and immersive spiritual journey, explore the numerous short and long trails of the Kumano-koda pilgrimage in the Kii mountains. The sacred area has both grand shrines that combine elements from Buddhist and Shinto religions, as well as little moss-covered Oji shrines along the pilgrim trails. Travelers stay at simple ryokans with onsens, where the highlight is traditional Japanese food made from fresh, local seasonal produce. 

Whatever spiritual path you choose during your Japan sojourn, an energetic forest hike or quiet temple meditation, it will be time well spent in reflection and pursuit of a higher place.

Experience the spiritual traditions of Japan for yourself with a completely tailor-made private tour. Get in touch with us for your obligation-free itinerary.

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