In Japan, there is a phrase known as “shinrinyoku” (森林浴), which literally translates to “forest bathing.” It refers to the practice of refreshing one’s body and soul by spending a long stretch of time in a wooded environment. There aren’t any special requirements for forest bathing; you don’t even particularly have to exert yourself, just be among the trees. We don’t have a good equivalent in English that expresses the same concept, though the loose term “nature therapy” encompasses practices like forest bathing. Many practitioners believe that forest bathing can lower one’s heart rate and blood pressure, decrease stress, fortify the immune system, and just generally make you feel good and peaceful!
A few days ago, I went to Yokokuraji, a temple in Ibigawa. It’s well known for its fall foliage and for the Buddhist mummy enshrined within one of its temple halls, but I’ve found that even a simple stroll through its precinct is pleasant and refreshing in nearly any season or weather. On the day I went, it was raining, and the whole area felt was so lush and beautiful. Everywhere I looked there was the green of trees, shrubs, plants, buds, and mosses. The air, heavy with the dampness from the rain, was cool and salubrious, and the smell of the forest earth was wafting upwards into the canopy. The setting felt optimal for rest and healing, and I think being there really rejuvenated me after a busy week of traveling and sightseeing with my companions. I hope I get the chance to do more “forest bathing” again soon!