Article by Nina Simons
What do you get when you combine breath-taking landmarks, interesting historic sites, cultural spots and unique floral displays? Yes, you guessed it right; it is definitely one of the most beautiful places on Earth, Japan. Japan is the top place where travelers should go to get inspired and reconnected with their inner being. In fact, many swear by the Zen principles. To be exact, Zen refers to the act of meditation in Japanese culture; it is directly connected to balance and absolute harmony.
However, if you remain hesitant for some reason then consider this; run away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and venture into the total tranquility of the alluring Zen gardens and the monasteries hidden in nature. Explore the harmonious and spiritual part of one of the most interesting countries in Asia. Most importantly, when you get a country which has a rich culture and truly unique features, planning gets a lot easier and fun. Without further delay, here are the top most beautiful Zen places in Japan for your inspiration.
1. Go fishing or swimming in the Noto Peninsula
One of the most common ways people like to let loose and relax is by going fishing. Luckily, there is the opportunity to grab your stuff and head to the Noto Peninsula for some quality time by yourself in nature. The Noto Peninsula is a peninsula which projects north into the Sea of Japan from Ishikawa Prefecture. Also known as the Mecca for seafood, tons of tourists from all over the world enjoy booking a trip to Ishikawa Prefecture. Even though there are various fish in the area, tourists usually enjoy crab, squid, fatty yellowtail (also called buri) and sweet shrimp. Also, the area is the home to some of Japan’s most beautiful coastal views as well as landscapes.
2. Walk to Kiso Valley
Did you know that walking is one of the most effective ways to ward off stress and anxiety? Not only that but taking a brisk walk also does wonders for cardiovascular and brain health. More experienced travelers definitely recommend taking a walk along one of the five Edo-period highways in Japan, the Nakasendo Trail. As the journey comes to an end, the travelers will stumble upon the Kiso Valley, which was once the main spot where pilgrims rested, ate and slept during their trips. One of the most rewarding experiences is taking a glimpse of the old towns and venturing through the forests.
3.Meditate in Kenrokuen Garden
Meditation is an excellent way to get in touch with your Zen side, as well as practice mindfulness. Also, what better way to meditate and clear your mind than in one of the most stunning gardens in Japan? Without a doubt, Kenrokuen Garden has been named one of the three most beautiful landscaped gardens, and it is no wonder why it got its honorable title. Full of adorable bridges, trails, large trees and spectacular flowers, even tourists who do not like these types of spots will want to bask in the romantic side of nature. Also, visitors have the opportunity to take Insta-worthy pictures of beautiful cherry blossoms.
4. Go on an adventure at Nachi Falls
Another great spot which will inspire you is Nachi Falls, also dubbed the tallest waterfall in the whole country. Also, visitors have the choice to go see the one-of-a-kind Nachi Taisha Shinto shrine which is conveniently located next to the waterfall. Did you know that the shrine is rumored to be more than 1400 years old? If you are interested in spiritual matters, then you will be also impressed by the fact that the shrine was built as a tribute to Nachi Falls’s spirit god (called kami in Japanese), thus making it one of the most notable religious sites in the area.
5. Go skiing in Hakuba
If you are a huge fan of winter sports, in particular, skiing, then there is no better destination for you than the Japanese Alps. Thanks to the annual snowfall of 11 meters and the popular resorts in the area, it is certain that Hakuba is quickly becoming one of the most famous places for ski holiday in Japan. Tourists are recommended (especially beginners) to look up professionals for advice in Hakuba. Fortunately, eager visitors can pick and choose packages which will cater to their needs. Luckily, there are plenty of resorts located in the valley which are suitable for every single individual. Also, most of the slopes are kid-friendly, so children will be able to have a bunch of fun as well.
Other popular skiing destinations in Japan include Niseko, Myoko Kogen, Shiga Kogen and the gorgeous Furano. However, if you do not like skiing, then you can always choose another type of activity in the Hakuba Valley. For example, go see the snow monkeys in Jigokudani Park. In fact, these cute monkeys are famous for bathing in the hot springs!
6. Gaze into the Blue Pond in Hokkaido Prefecture
There is certainly nothing as relaxing as sitting by yourself or your loved one in silence, just gazing at the peaceful waters of a pond. For this reason, many recommend taking a trip to the Blue Pond in Hokkaido Prefecture (also named Aoiike) and taking a break whilst admiring the fantastical blue color of its water. Those who have already visited this area swear that the protruding tree stumps only add to the pond’s magical appearance. You can definitely imagine a real-life fairytale take place in the area in Hokkaido Prefecture. In fact, the pond is not of natural origin; it was made by man as a part of an erosion control system. Nevertheless, the magical hue of its water is definitely all-natural; it is caused by minerals which got dissolved in the water.
7. Take a camel ride in the Tottori Sand Dunes
Did you think that it was impossible to take a camel ride outside of Africa? In fact, guests can travel to the Tottori Sand Dunes in the Sanin Kaigan National Park in Tottori Prefecture and enjoy the mesmerizing desert-like settings. In fact, the dunes are the largest in Japan, stretching a whopping 16 kilometers along the country’s coast. The sand dunes appeared more than a thousand years ago when the sand from the Sendaigawa River washed out to the sea and ended up along the coast. Nowadays, the rapid movement of the tides and winds repeatedly shape and form the sand dunes which contribute to its authentic look. If camel rides aren’t your thing, then consider doing something even more adventurous and take part in sand boarding or paragliding. This is one of the best ways to fully enjoy the spectacular views of the area.
8. Chill out next to the Aogashima Volcano
Japan is notorious for its terrific volcanoes and landscapes. One way to squeeze some extra fun in is by taking a trip to the tropical island called Aogashima. All in all, to avoid confusion, this small island, which is located in the Philippine Sea, is under the administration of Tokyo. Tourists who are true adventurers at heart will be astonished by the fact that the area is the home to one of the biggest double volcanoes. More precisely, the island itself is considered a volcano, whilst there is another, a much smaller volcano which can be found in the center of the island. Also, Aogishima can also be called the smallest village in Japan due to the fact that it is the home to a number of inhabitants, 200 to be exact.
In sum, sometimes all you need to do is pack your bags and escape the hectic ways of everyday life. So, next time you consider taking a trip somewhere unique and spellbinding, that would be perfect for meditation, consider the wondrous country of Japan. You will be amazed!