Rather that rushing to see the sights of another country sometimes it’s better to stop and immerse yourself in the culture. AKINA HANSEN takes a tour of Japan within the pages of Mindfulness Travel Japan.
Japan is an island nation that developed almost completely in isolation, away from outside influences. As a result, it’s a country that has maintained its rich Shinto traditions and customs in almost every facet of its being.
For those unfamiliar with Shintoism, it’s a Japanese religion – although many Japanese wouldn’t identify it as such. Instead, as my mother would say, ‘it’s a way of life’ or a belief and practice system that nurtures a mindfulness for the world around us.
Many tourists who visit Japan understandably have difficulty navigating the country’s distinct cultural traditions and customs.
Mindfulness Travel Japan is a practical and, as the title would suggest, ‘mindful’ guide to exploring Japan through a cultural and spiritual lens. The book provides specific tips and advice for navigating various Japanese social practices – ranging from onsen etiquette, through to table manners.
The authors, Steve Wide and Michelle Mackintosh, are Australians who spend at least three months of every year in Japan. In their book, they share their own knowledge, reflections and appreciation of the country which gives the book an intimate quality, distinguishing it from a conventional travel guide.
This book is ideal for tourists who are looking to experience traditional destinations and experiences across Japan. You’ll discover the different ways you can participate in Zen practices, find significant Shinto temples and gardens, learn about tea houses and the practices involved in tea ceremonies, uncover hidden onsens and learn about their specific mental and physical health benefits, and find out where you can partake in Japanese artisan crafts such as calligraphy and pottery.
This thoughtful travel guide will appeal to readers who are unfamiliar with, but curious about, Zen and Shinto based experiences.
THE WAY OF ONSEN
Discard both your clothes and daily cares and enjoy a time-honoured bathing ritual in one of Japan’s 3000 hot springs. Onsen have been revered for centuries for their relaxing and healing qualities. We have visited over 250 onsen, from rural bathhouses to forest retreats and whole towns dedicated to taking a bath, as well as city purpose-built super sento (large bathing and relaxing centres). On each trip to Japan, we always stay in at least two ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) based on the beauty of their baths. This passion inspired us to pen Onsen of Japan, one of our favourite book-writing experiences.
Communal naked bathing can be a sacred ritual, a form of deep relaxation and a way to relieve aliments. It’s not an exclusive day spa – it’s an affordable, social experience, an outing where family or friends can enjoy each other’s company and engage in ‘hadaka no tsukiai’, or ‘naked communication’.