If you want to have the ultimate forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) experience, it makes sense to journey to Japan, where the tradition originated.
In this post, we are going to introduce you to some top destinations for forest bathing in Japan.
But first, let’s give a little bit of background on forest bathing retreats in Japan and what you should look for when choosing where to go.
About Forest Therapy in Japan
While forest bathing in Japan takes you to the roots of this meditative practice, it has another special benefit—and that is the more formalized nature of the practice in the country.
In Japan, there is actually a certification program for registering locations referred to as “forest therapy bases” and “forest therapy roads.”
The program has been around since 2006 and is offered by the Forest Therapy Society. You will find dozens of locations to explore that have earned the certification.
What Makes a Good Forest Bathing Location?
You are probably wondering what type of environment is ideal for promoting the physical and psychological benefits of forest bathing.
Were you looking for somewhere to practice near home, we would say “anywhere with trees that you can get to” is sufficient for forest bathing. But since you have the luxury of traveling to Japan, you can be much pickier!
A good spot should:
- Be as quiet and secluded as possible. It should be either far-removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, or appear that way.
- Feature paths restricted to foot traffic only.
- Not be crowded.
- Feature relatively gentle inclines, not steep, rocky, challenging, or hazardous paths.
- Speak to you and uplift you.
- Appeal to other interests, and/or feature additional amenities you will enjoy.
Forest Bathing Certification Process in Japan
The Forest Therapy Society has attempted to take some of the guesswork out of selecting forest bathing spots in Japan.
The society explains,
We conduct the physiology and psychology experiments in order to authorize the ‘Forest Therapy’ and ‘Forest Therapy Road’.
As a result, we have discovered that a body relaxes physiologically at various authorized locations. We perform experiments in both forest and urban environments at the same time and measure responses such as heart rate, variability, and the blood pressure of participants. Using the collected integrated data, we provide evidence of the forest effect on the human beings scientifically.”
So, if you choose a certified location in Japan for your forest bathing experience, you will be spending time in a location that has been scientifically shown to enhance health and well-being.
Certified Locations in Japan for Forest Bathing
Ready to plan your own forest bathing trip in a certified location in Japan? Here are some top spots to consider.
1. Shinano / Shinano Town Healing Forest
In the Nagano Prefecture, you will find the town of Shinano, which is home to a population of around 8,339. Visit during the winter, and you will find the mountainous area white with snow. During the warmer months, you will be surrounded by green.
The area is probably best known for Lake Nojiri, but its certified healing forests are an increasing draw, particularly the world-famous Afan Forest.
The official travel guide to the area quotes Chie Kosuga, a leader of the Shinano Woods-Life Community, as saying,
It is an attraction, but we wanted something deeper on both the physical and spiritual levels. We really wanted to create something that could heal urban people, as well as something people here would also enjoy. I can really say that this is the birthplace of forest therapy.Chie Kosuga – Community Member
For forest bathing in a mountainous setting where the locals live in harmony with nature, Shinano Town Healing Forest provides an amazing experience.
2. Iinan Town Hometown Forest
Travel to the Shimane prefecture, and you will find Iinan Town right at the border with Hiroshima prefecture. Here, the forests have grown up along the banks of the Kando and Hii Rivers. You will find Japanese Cedar and Japanese Cypress trees here in abundance.
You can have a highly structured forest bathing experience here with a focus on physical and psychological wellness. In fact, upon arrival, you can have an assessment, which will allow a guide to come up with a plan for your visit that is fully personalized to your needs.
While you are here, you also can enjoy delicious, healthy meals that include ingredients from the local area.
Additionally, there are hot springs here where you can soothe sore muscles and relax your body and mind following your exploration of the forests.
With the presence of multiple hot springs, we think this experience would be particularly suited to someone who experiences muscle pain.
Be aware, however, that the paths are not wheelchair accessible. Some of the trails may also be difficult for some other elderly or disabled walkers as well.
3. Okutama Town, Tokyo
If you are in search of forest bathing near Tokyo, our top recommendation is Okutama Town.
In fact, to get to this location, all you have to do is hop on a train. Less than two hours later, you will arrive at your destination.
In a giant tree survey, the Ministry of the Environment noted more than a thousand of them growing in the forests around this town. You will find five different therapy roads on which to walk, marveling at the huge trees.
Wholesome food, health assessments, and individualized plans all make for a personalized experience.
We suggest this destination for the convenience of its location near Tokyo as well as its diverse attractions. Along with forest bathing, you can enjoy visiting sites like the Nippara Limestone Cave and Hatonosu Canyon.
4. Amanemu, Ise-Shima
The hills of Ise-Shima are another place to escape for forest bathing in Japan. During your stay, you will be right next to Ago Bay.
Amanemu itself is a hot spring resort operated by Aman.
You can book a four-night retreat at the resort to experience the healing wonder of this destination.
Amanemu epitomizes ‘omotenashi’, the Japanese welcoming spirit full of warmth and respect, and is ideally placed for experiencing onsen bathing, the forests, and waterfalls of the spectacular Kumano Kodo pilgrim route, Japanese wellness and mindfulness practices, and the benefits of macrobiotic dining.Aman – Resort operator
With its hot springs, Shiatsu massage, moxa, and acupuncture, there are a lot of treatments here that are ideal for those suffering from musculoskeletal issues or other health concerns.
We also can recommend it for anyone looking for an ambiance that unites the best of traditional and modern Japanese design.
5. Ama Kazariso, Odiya Onsen
Come to Ama Kazariso near Odiya Onsen to immerse yourself in another forested mountain setting you will love. In fact, you will be able to enjoy views of Mt. Akashina from this hotel.
One forest bathing experience you can book while staying in this location is this one from Mindfulness Vacations & Retreats.
The retreat operator writes,
We will … experience a Shinto pilgrimage route with several historical shrines along the way, the Togakushi shrines, surrounded by 600+ year old Japanese cedars representing the close connection between Shinto and nature. Some of these majestic trees are considered sacred, showing the typical markings stating so.Mindfulness Vacations & Retreats
While the location can appeal to anyone who wants to experience forest bathing in the mountains, this particular tour is best for those who are interested in meditation and mysticism.
6. Hire a Local Guide in Kyoto Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
The forests around Kyoto offer quite a few spots that are ideal for forest bathing. Indeed, you will also discover multiple local tour guides on AirBnB that can show you around the area.
One experience is this one, simply titled “Forest bathing, meditation & massage.” It is an immersive outing that lasts for around three hours. The host writes,
We will … meditate and lie down on the ground surrounded by trees which helps you to feel grounded and connected to the earth’s healing energy. Dry massage and stretching, all done outdoor, are included. Some of the combined benefits of these therapies include deep relaxation, the release of tension and stress, alleviate energy blockage, toxin cleanse, and strengthening of the immune system.
Another experience is “Forest Bathe in Kyoto’s Sacred Mountain.” You will tour various Shinto shrines, learning more about traditional Shinto rituals and meditations.
If you are in the Kyoto area, you will not want to miss out on these forest bathing experiences. Those who are interested in Shinto in particular will want to make sure to catch the Sacred Mountain tour.
Now you are acquainted with some of the top destinations for forest bathing in Japan. These certified Japanese healing forests can relax your body, clarify your mind, and inspire your spirit.
Book your retreat now to experience the benefits of shinrin-yoku!