In a bustling city full of high rises and a population of nearly 14 million people, zen is the last state of mind you would expect to embrace. But, thanks to public onsens, pristine ponds, Buddhist temples, and matcha tea ceremonies, Tokyo is a prime wellness destination.
The Japanese culture is one that promotes wellbeing through its many rituals and age-old traditions. Boasting one of the longest life expectancies in the world, it’s evident that this is a country where health is wealth, and maximizing your mental prosperity is put at the forefront of daily life.
The great thing about visiting Japan is that to travel more mindfully and wholesomely means to immerse yourself in authentic Japan and understand the Japanese culture. As the saying goes, do as the locals do, and in Japan’s case, this means to live a more conscious and peaceful life. Here are the top spa and wellness experiences to have in Japan.
Yes, you are reading that correctly – forest bathing. Forest bathing has been practiced by the Japanese for years. The act of forest bathing involves hiking in the woods while focusing on your senses. Not only is forest bathing healthy for your physical body, it is also beneficial for your mental health. Be mindful of the way the earth feels under you, the smell of the trees, and the way the sunlight brightens up the leaves on the ground. There are plenty of places in and around Tokyo to practice this custom.
Visit an Onsen
Visit one of Tokyo’s many onsens and allow your body to be rejuvenated by the healing powers of the mineral-infused thermal waters. Hot springs hold a significant place in Japanese culture, with people visiting them for their healing properties for skin and health. These springs are often accompanied by gardens and stunning scenery, making for the perfect setting for an afternoon of meditation and relaxation. Just outside of Tokyo’s city center, you can find Odaiba Ōedo Onsen Monogatari. This big Japanese spa is the perfect place to kick back and unwind. Other than onsens, they offer a variety of other services like spa treatments and massages. After reaping the health effects of the thermal water, drape on a kimono and grab yourself something to eat in the various food stalls located just outside of the hot springs.
Spend Time in a Japanese Garden
Japanese gardens are popular all over the world and are closely entwined with Japanese culture. Visiting a garden in Tokyo is the perfect escape from chaotic city life. There are over 6,000 parks in Tokyo, so you are never too far from recentering your inner balance. Tokyo’s parks are an oasis; a much needed paradise of calm and tranquility. Many parks are replete with ponds, streams, bridges, and flowers. In line with Japanese aesthetics, the gardens are designed minimally, making them the perfect location for reflection and meditation.
Visit Shinjuku Gyoen, one of the largest parks in Tokyo with three distinct gardens. Rikugien is a gorgeous traditional Japanese garden in Tokyo which has ponds and tea houses. The garden is particularly beautiful in the fall, especially in the evening when they light up the orange and red colored trees.
For the ultimate wellness experience while in Tokyo, stay at one of Tokyo’s many luxury hotels. The 5-star Mandarin Oriental offers guests luxury in the heart of Tokyo. The hotel features an award-winning spa, fitness room, hot tub, and sauna. Another great option is Imperial Hotel Tokyo. The hotel provides first-rate hospitality to guests and features a fitness center, indoor swimming pool, and massage treatment center.
Japanese Tea Ceremony
The traditional Japanese tea ceremony goes back thousands of years and it’s not disappearing anytime soon. The importance of the ceremony is less about the drinking of the tea, and more about the mindful way in which the tea is prepared. In Japan, the tea ceremony is a spiritual practice. Preparing the tea in an authentic manner requires you to divert your entire focus into the movements. You can choose to observe a tea ceremony in Tokyo or even learn how to prepare tea. You will walk away from the experience feeling refreshed and calm.
Shrines and Temples
What better place to meditate than in the very buildings built for spiritual practice? Tokyo has over 4,000 Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Visit Senso-Ji, the oldest temple and spiritual center of Tokyo or the remarkable Meiji-jingu Shrine located in a lush green forest. To learn the fascinating history of the temples and shrines, join a guided tour.
Stop and View the flowers
In Japan, they don’t stop and smell the flowers, they stop and view them. “Hanami” in Japanese translates to “flower viewing.” It is typically connected to the Cherry Blossom season when locals lay under the trees and take in the beautiful nature surrounding them. There are also a variety of Matsuri, or festivals, which celebrate different types of flowers in Japan.
There are plenty of ways to extend your wellness vacation outside of Tokyo. Explore the remarkable shrines and temples in Kyoto and discover Japan’s natural beauty.