Let nature heal you as you try forest therapy — mindfully strolling through a forest trail — with a certified guide in the woods of Kunigami! Located in subtropical Yambaru National Park, this village is Okinawa's only certified Forest Therapy Base.
Forest therapy is a wellness practice and alternative form of therapy that involves mindfully immersing oneself in nature, usually by taking a gentle walk in the woods — an activity called ‘shinrin-yoku’ (forest bathing). As one slowly walks through the forest, they are supposed to take in the sights, sounds, scents, and sensations of the forest: appreciating the surrounding greenery, inhaling the scent of leaves, closing one’s eyes to briefly meditate, touching plants, and so on. Spending time in the forest as therapy started in Japan, when some therapists and doctors established forest bathing as a form of mental healthcare. Being surrounded by nature is said to help reduce stress and fatigue levels. The Forest Therapy Society designates certain areas of Japan as certified Forest Therapy Bases depending on how conducive they are to forest bathing sessions, and people can train to become certified forest therapy guides. Forest therapy is also becoming increasingly popular elsewhere in the world. One certified Forest Therapy Base is Kunigami Village, the only one in Okinawa. Choose from four different courses to try forest bathing in Kunigami with a certified guide: Kunigami Forest Park Course The verdant greenery of this forest park will provide healing for the senses! Trees and tropical plants aside, also on this park’s grounds are a river, a lake, and an observatory overlooking the sea. Wild birds call out every now and then, too, so listen for some birdsong! Yambaru Discovery Forest River Song Course With hiking trails, a suspension bridge, and more, Yambaru Discovery Forest is a facility for outdoor activities. The facility’s River Song course features trails designed according to accessibility and universal design principles, making it suitable even for people with disabilities and mobility impairments. Let the sound of a flowing river — melodic like a song — soothe you. Hiji Ootaki Falls Course Hiji Ootaki Falls is the highest waterfall on Okinawa’s main island, and the trail leading to it is surrounded by forests filled with subtropical plants that you won’t see elsewhere in Japan. A stream also runs along this trail — listen mindfully and relax to the sound of flowing water! Since this is a forest therapy walk, it will not be a full-on hike; you will walk through easy trails. Mt. Yonaha Course Located 503 meters above sea level, Mt. Yonaha is the highest peak on Okinawa’s main island. The trail leading to it is filled with primeval plants such as a giant fern called the flying-spider-monkey tree fern. This course is recommended for those who want to get acquainted with Okinawa’s subtropical environment. Like the Hiji Ootaki Falls course, this will be a walk more than a hike, so anyone can try this course. You will not climb all the way to the top; you will just reach about one-third of the mountain. Due to its abundance of endangered flora and fauna, the area surrounding the summit of Mt. Yonaha — including the summit itself — is designated as a natural conservation reserve and a Special Protection Area, so climbing all the way to the top of the mountain is strictly prohibited. The forest therapy experience is available all year round. All courses last for about 3–4 hours and roughly follow this itinerary: 09:00 — Gather at the meeting point; registration 09:15 — Head for the forest therapy trail 09:30 — Begin forest therapy 12:00 — Forest therapy ends; head back to meeting point 12:15 — Return to meeting point; short break 12:30 — Debriefing 13:00 — Activity ends Lastly, please note that aside from the Kunigami Forest Park and Mt. Yonaha courses, the other two require additional fees for admission to some facilities on the itinerary. Please see the Activity Rules section for more details.