People in Japan live longer than almost anyone else in the world, and this is in part due to the nurturing and mindful activities that are woven into everyday life. These activities include soaking in natural hot springs, practising traditional art or taking a cooking class. Here are six revitalising experiences to help you stay centred in the capital.
Take a dip at Thermae-Yu Hot Spring
Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district is better known for partying than wellness – but when do you need rejuvenation more than after a night on the town? Thermae-yu offers spa luxury for those on a budget, using genuine onsen water supplied daily from Japan’s Izu peninsula. The six-floor complex has both indoor and open-air baths, including a jacuzzi and carbonated water bath (which is great for your skin). After your soak, head for the spa for scrub and hot-stone treatments. The hot spring is conveniently located in the middle of Shinjuku and is open 22 hours a day, meaning even the busiest people can find time to unwind.
Relax after a day exploring Odaiba with a soak at Oedo-Onsen-Monogatari. This Edo period-themed hot spring has 13 different types of thermal bath to soothe your aches and pains. Don’t miss the ultra-refreshing bath of silk, complete with ‘micro-nano bubbles’ that feel incredible on your skin. The charming outdoor foot bath is open to both men and women (many onsens are single sex), making it perfect for couples and families. Afterwards, put on your yukata kimono and enjoy crêpes, sushi and Japanese treats such as ramune candy. There can be long queues if you show up on the day, so it’s wise to plan ahead and buy a ticket in advance.
Shodo, or Japanese calligraphy, can be a wonderful way to be mindful while connecting with the country’s rich cultural heritage. Shodo is influenced by Zen Buddhism and many monks still practise the art. Whether you want to calm your mind or simply enjoy how wonderful kanji (Chinese characters) look on the page, Culture Trip recommends you try this calligraphy lesson in Tokyo. Japanese calligrapher Waki has been practising for 20 years and offers lessons designed for international visitors.
The humble tea ceremony is a cornerstone of Japanese culture, encouraging mindfulness, gratitude and hospitality. In this immersive tea ceremony experience, Gionji temple’s head priest leads you step-by-step through the traditional ritual. The ceremony involves boiling water in a traditional iron kettle, whisking matcha green tea, passing a beautiful ceramic bowl around the group, sipping tea slowly (and gratefully) before finishing off with wagashi sweets to offset the bitterness. A stool will be provided for those who can’t sit in the seiza kneeling position. You’ll emerge refreshed and with a deeper appreciation for a ceremony that’s been around for more than a thousand years.
Pottery is one of Japan’s oldest and most beloved art forms, partly thanks to its association with the tea ceremony. This wonderful Japanese pottery lesson in Omotesando gives you the option of making either a chopstick rest or cup, guided every step of the way by a patient expert. This is a wonderful way to use your hands and be creative and present in the moment. Leave room in your suitcase for your souvenir.
It can be hard to find vegan food in Japan. Learn to feed yourself in this vegan cooking class, where a friendly and passionate instructor will teach you to make delicious meat- and dairy-free ramen and gyoza. This class shows you how to modify Japanese classics while staying true to tradition, and the methodical processes involved in the cooking can have a meditative effect.