Are you feeling rundown and desperate for a break? Make your next escape to the Zen capital of Japan, Kyoto, a city filled with rich history and antiquated beauty. The city is abound in temples and shrines, zen gardens, and opportunities deepen your mindfulness. With over 90% of the population identifying as Buddhist, you can imagine that there are many mantras being chanted, vegetarian diets being adhered to, and meditation being practiced throughout the city. Although you probably won’t manage to reach enlightenment within a week’s trip, you will have plenty of opportunities to take deep breaths and connect with yourself on a more spiritual level. Here is our spa and wellness guide to Kyoto.
Buddhist Temples and Shrines
Kyoto is home to thousands of temples and shrines. The nexus of Buddhist practice, these sites are the perfect place to retreat to even if you have no religious intentions. The temples contain beautiful Zen gardens, offering the perfect space to reduce your stress and hone in on the present moment.
Visit Nanzen-ji temple and set yourself up in a quiet corner among the stone garden, stunning halls and gates, and subtemples. Although the traffic of people is constant, the temple grounds are spacious enough, allowing you to create your own little retreat among the scurrying crowds.
If the perfect ‘ohm’ image elicits an image of you seated in a lotus position near a Zen garden, a visit to Daitoku-ji is a must. The temple offers some of the best variety of Zen temples in Kyoto, including rock gardens and landscape gardens. There are several sub-temples in the complex and beautiful gardens, which create the perfect setting for a morning or afternoon meditation session.
Stroll the well-preserved paths of the Myoshin-Ji temple, and be transported to an otherworldly zen realm. The temple grounds are expansive, giving you plenty of opportunities to focus on your breath and tune in to the present moment.
Visit a Bamboo Forest
The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one of the most surreal places and is a must for any traveler seeking refuge from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Unlike any forest you’ve ever encountered, you’ll stand below the soaring bamboo grove and feel the wind on your face and the warm sun shining through the swaying bamboo. The early hours are the calmest time to be in the forest, due to it being a popular tourist destination.
Visit a Japanese Public Bath
There are few things more relaxing than soaking in a steaming hot tub. Kyoto has several sentos, Japanese public baths. Visit Tenzan-no-yu Onsen, a hot spring located near Arashiyama. Go for the bath and stay for the massage and delicious restaurant.
Take a Zazen Meditation Class
Zazen meditation, also known as Zen meditation, is the primary practice of Zen Buddhism. You can attend a zazen meditation class at a variety of temples. Allow a zen priest to guide you through meditation and teach you about its history. You will learn how to focus all your thoughts on your breath as you sit still and breathe quietly through your nose.
Japanese Tea Experience
Seeing that the tea ceremony was born in Kyoto, it’s no surprise that the opportunities to discover it here are abundant. The mystical tea ceremony provides a great opportunity to discover Japanese traditions and learn about the culture. The Maikoya Tea Ceremony allows visitors to wear a kimono, learn the history behind the tea ritual, and make your own tea.
There are a number of wellness hotels and resorts in Kyoto which create the perfect space for you to unwind and relax in the cultural capital of Japan. The Aman Resort offers guests an outdoor and indoor onsen, a range of spa treatments, and mindfulness and yoga sessions in nature. The resort hotel features a garden and contains details of a traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn.
The five-star luxury Four Seasons Hotel is another perfect stay. Guests are spoiled with warm interiors, breathtaking pond gardens, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a divine spa. It’s the perfect match for your wellness stay in Kyoto.