Mountain worship ascetics or Yamabushi have talked about shinrin-yoku or forest baths since 1,400 years ago. Starting from Dewa Sanzan to fight the plague.
A dozen men in white were lined up in the forest. They are led by a man with a long beard and wearing a similar dress, Tolkienian.
They are the Yamabushi, mountain worshipers in Japan in the sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan in Yamagata prefecture. There are three mountains there, Mount Haguro, Mount Gassan, and Mount Yudono.
BBC mentioning the Yamabushi have their own religion. Namely, Shugendo. Shugendo incorporates the three elements of Shinto, Buddhism and Taoism. Currently, there are about 6,000 Yamabushi in Japan.
One of the rituals performed was walking in the forest or shinrin-yoku which is now known as forest bathing aka forest bath.
The mountain hermits are not just taking a leisurely walk in the forest, they meditate by fasting for a long time in the forest. Fasting was considered dangerous enough to the point that it was prohibited since the Meiji era (1868-1912).
They believe that meditating Shugendo in a mountainous environment and in a forest can bring enlightenment. They believed that the long fast could open the way to another world and symbolize the death of their worldly self. That’s why they wear white robes, or shiroshozoku.
“Shiroshozoku was traditionally used to dress up the dead,” said Yamabushi Kazuhiro, Yamabushi trainer and guide.
In order to become a certified Yamabushi, one must complete the Akinomine Autumn Peak ritual for a week. The details of the ritual are secret, but broadly speaking activities include meditating under waterfalls, walking at night, and visiting places where the gods reside in the mountains and praying to them.
After that, how long and how often they walked on the mountain depends on each individual.
“Most of them repeat the ritual of Akinomine’s Peak Autumn every year. Some do their own training,” said Bunting.
Forest Bath and Kate Middleton
Quoted from The Telegraph, The ritual of forest bathing was once hotly discussed after Kate Middleton designed the Chelsea Garden and then a photo of the garden was uploaded on the Kensington Palace Instagram account.
At that time, landscape architect Andree Davies, who worked with Kate Middleton, referred to the concept of a jungle bath from office workers in Japan who approached the trees for their lunch break.
British practitioner, Faith Douglas, mentioned forest bathing or the jungle bath as a therapeutic activity for military veterans.
“Forest bathing gives you an overall feeling of calm. You are more relaxed and clear but also excited and connected, not only to natural spaces but also to the people around you, “said Douglas.
Watch Video “The Alluring Attractions of Kiyomizudera Shrine in Kyoto“