painting of Tori Gates

Kyoto Forest Bathing, Become One With Nature

Recently, my husband and I traveled to Kyoto, Japan to learn about forest bathing. The trip was virtual through Zoom due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Our tour guide, Lee, demonstrated forest bathing and practiced simple forms of meditation with us. Additionally, we learned about history and rituals of Shintoism as he guided us on a trek through the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Shows a bamboo forest typical of Kyoto Forest Bathing
Bamboo Forest
Photo from wikipedia

Kyoto Forest Bathing

I had never heard of forest bathing until I opened an email from Airbnb. It listed new virtual experiences including Kyoto Forest Bathing. Immediately I signed us up.

Lee, a tour guide in Kyoto, began the session with introductions. He proceeded to explain forest bathing. People take in nature through their senses when forest bathing. Because trees give off oxygen as a waste product, meditating in the forest can improve health. When forest bathing, standing under the cold water from a waterfall focuses your senses on the sensation of the feel of the water and helps to block out distractions. Lee explained that you can forest bathe in any forest even when no waterfall exists. Instead, a meditative state can be achieved through focusing concentration on your breath.

Meditative Technique for Forest Bathing

I practice yoga regularly so this was right up my alley. Lee had us stand up and do some stretching exercises. Then we sat down with our hands together as a circle. This helped us focus on our breathing. When meditating, breathe in and out through the nose and take deep full breaths. Optimally we practiced this for two minutes.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Along the way to forest bathe Lee imparted wisdom about the shrines. The Fushimi Inari Shrine is the most important religious center in Japan. It is made up of many shrines to individual gods of Shintoism.

Senbon Torii

Fushimi Inari Shrine on the way to Kyoto Forest Bathing
By Jennie Kondo (Jennie Valdivieso Kondo – Grialte) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30975643

Senbon Torii means 1000 Tori gates. Two statues of foxes guard the entrance to the gates. In this section of the shrine two paths of Tori gates join together and become one. Lee quizzed us as to why. However, none of us knew the answer. Lee explained that the two paths symbolize Fallopian tubes leading to the womb, a symbol of Mother Nature. He further explained that the gods of Shintoism are female because Shintoism is based on worshiping nature.

In this part of the shrine you ask the for the fulfillment of your wishes. When your wish comes true you express gratitude by making a Tori gate to add to the shrine. Large gates have been created by big corporations, but the average person can make a small one to offer. The gates are painted vermillion to repel evil.

Sun and Moon Shrine

Another shrine we visited was the Sun and Moon shrine. This had streamers hanging from a gate to represent lightening bolts which are meant to attract the gods. We learned a ritual to summon the gods.

  • Bow twice
  • Clap twice
  • Bow twice

The clapping represents thunder. Additionally Lee explained that many areas of the countries have different rituals. When you visit the shrines observe and follow others. This way, you know what to do because there are no signs detailing the rituals.

Shrine of Gratitude

Another shrine we visited was the shrine of gratitude. At this shrine the ritual varied slightly.

  • First, 3 claps to show gratitude for your own body
  • Next, 3 claps to show gratitude for those close to you
  • Finally, 3 claps to show gratitude for those far away

My husband and I were immersed in this experience so my note taking was lacking. For more information on joining Lee in Kyoto for forest bathing visit him at Https://crafttabby.com or book through Airbnb. We highly recommend this experience.

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