Japanese culture is inherently traditional upholding many ceremonies and customs from the past. Similar to yoga, the culture in Japan recognizes the importance of serenity, calmness, and well-being. Beyond this, Japan offers the perfect setting to practice yoga amid outdoor gardens, parks and boundless natural beauty.
From tranquil morning Zen meditation to a cleansing dip in a natural hot spring it is easy to see why Japan offers the perfect backdrop for relaxation, focus, and yoga. Filled with the flourishing, pink cherry blossoms, bamboo-lined gardens, iconic Mount Fuji, endless temples, and contemplative outdoor spaces, the environment evokes emotion and is inherently serene. Japan is imbued with time-honored traditions and upholds the ideals of customs and rituals.
Yoga in Japan
The idea of Yoga came to Japan in the 1900s, from Tempu Nakamura, the founder of Japanese Yoga. Nakamura had traveled through India and Nepal and found several commonalities and universal ideas from yoga in correlation to the mind and body. These ideals were then analyzed and adapted by Nakamura, taking into consideration many Japanese principles which inevitably led to the creation of Japanese Yoga.
Seasonality is Key
Known as Shinshin-tōitsu-dō, Japanese Yoga is unique in that respectfully flows in unison with the seasons. Depending on the specific season, the yoga movements move in sync with the seasons – winter, spring, summer or fall, each with their own set of movements and body isolations. In fact, the concept of Japanese Yoga also takes notes from Chinese acupuncture which follows distinctive meridians of the body. Like many Japanese holidays and festivals which also follow the seasons, this concept is cyclical and cleansing in its core, encouraging growth and change, like the ever-changing seasons.
What makes Japanese Yoga different?
Some of the values and principles derived from Japanese Yoga include intensified mental clarity and awareness, enhanced muscle tone and overall flexibility as well as the intrinsic release of both mental and emotional tension. These ideas of Japanese Yoga, while apparent in most forms of yoga and always respected and upheld during any Japanese Yoga session.
CEO and Founder of Tourist Japan, Ben Julius has seen a steady flow of tourists visiting Japan exclusively for yoga. “Travelers are seeking meditation and yoga retreats that are completely devoted to the practice and understanding of yoga. Japan is a spiritual, sacred and cleansing place that draws in many international tourists interested in this specific aspect of the country.” Julius notes that this is a niche part of the tourism industry, that attracts many international visitors to Japan exclusively for yoga.
Yoga Retreats in Japan
According to the hottest wellness trends of 2019, Yoga Retreats are gaining new levels of popularity. From Yoga Teacher Training to Meditation and everything in between, retreats offer an opportunity to travel, meet others in the yoga community and engage in a deep and meaningful practice without the distractions of everyday life. Retreats can range in length, the majority of them ranging from a weekend to a week, but others lasting months, retreats are the ideal way to delve deep into yoga and gain focus.
A part of Japanese Life
Not only is yoga popular amongst tourists, but yoga is also becoming part of the mainstream awareness in modern Japanese life. Many large and small scale companies and corporations have adopted a policy of mindfulness in their daily routines. As such, both yoga and meditation are worked into a daily work schedule, encouraging employees to take a break from the work tasks to focus on yoga, with the idea that this will promote not only health and wellness but also improved productivity.
As more people become aware of the powerful benefits of incorporating yoga into a balanced routine, the popularity of this ancient practice will not only grow in Japan but on a global scale.
By Kylie Goldstein
Kylie Goldstein is a travel writer for Tourist Japan and Tourist Jordan. A Canadian expat living abroad in Tel Aviv, passionate about all things vegan and travel-related.