In May we went back to Japan for another yoga retreat with Jivamukti teacher Emma Henry. This time we were exploring the mountains of Nagano region, known as the Japanese Alps. Here’s what we got up to…
We began our retreat in the old city of Matsumoto, home to a big old castle and famous for its river full of frogs! Then we jumped on a local train and off we went up into the foothills of Azumino, enjoying spectacular views of snowcapped mountains along the way.
Chamomile and Zen meditation
Our first stop was a beautiful chamomile farm, hidden in a beautiful forest. We slept on futons in simple tatami rooms and ate the most delicious macrobiotic vegan menu. The yoga room looked out onto the forests and possibly the most wonderful thing about this place was their big onsen baths scented with chamomile and unlimited supply of their divine products. The place was so zen we couldn’t help but chill – pretty much the perfect place to recover from our long journey and jetlag.
Along with twice daily Jivamukti yoga with Emma Henry we included Zen meditation in our retreat. We visited a local priest who lived in the most beautiful place; a peaceful temple set in lovely gardens. We were ushered into the temple and the principles of this type of meditation were explained to us and then we grabbed our cushions and sat facing a wall and meditated for 20 minutes. Sometimes these situations can feel a little odd but on this day as we sat in silence together we felt really connected. It was powerful. After some tea and a calligraphy class we had time to wander around the gardens and enjoy the amazing views.
Foraging and wild food
Our next mission was foraging. Our hosts took us into the surrounding fields and helped us harvest a whole load of edible plants. Lots of fun was had as we got to work filling our baskets.
Our next job was to cook it. The very patient lovely chefs showed us how to tempura with chop sticks and we made a feast. Here’s Zoe showing us how’s it’s done.
A few more yoga classes and plenty more chamomile baths later and it was time to leave and head higher up into the mountains. In case you’re wondering why there are very few photos of our yoga classes on this blog, we tend to keep yoga classes private on retreat and don’t like to intrude with a camera!
So off we went, taking 2 trains and a minibus to our next destination – cute woodland cabins in the mountains and a Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) centre. After yoga and a big breakfast we met up with our forest bathing guides who equipped us with anti-mosquito kits and led us into the most beautiful woodland. After some breathing exercises we were asked to stand quietly and listen to the birds and try and work out how many different birds were singing. Senses tuned we then spent a wonderful few hours using all of our senses to appreciate the forest before heading to an old village to prepare and cook our own lunch on a fire. Read more about forest bathing and why we love it.
We certainly packed a lot into our Japan retreat! After a week in the mountains we headed back to urban life to finish our retreat in the city of Nagano. We stayed in an old ryokan and woke up at 5.30am to join the dawn meditation with at the famous Zenkoji temple. It was a powerful way to end a retreat and we are already looking forward to heading back in 2020. If you would like to join us here are the details.