Sachiko: Since Covid-19, we feel that, luxury is no longer enough for travelling. Since we stopped traveling, I think, we all became more aware of what is precious about it. In the future people will want to explore what is real Japan much more than they used to do before the pandemic – not only the surface but also dig deep into the culture, exploring the roots of Japanese mindset – Shintoism and Zen Buddhism, which are both close to nature. In Shintoism there are many gods in any form of natural things – we say: eight million gods 八百万の神(Yao Yorozu no Kami). The feeling of being blessed by a lot of gods when we’re in the beauty of nature makes us happy. In Zen Buddhism, we are nothing more than just a part of nature, and our lives are very brief. By accepting this, we make our mind calm and peaceful. We are now working to offer many more “keys” to the guests to access Japanese mindset.
Going back to Why Be Happy, you wrote:
Most Japanese are not fortunate enough to spend time in a Zen temple retreat, have mornings in a garden, or take strolls each day through Shinto shrines. But the information associated with each of these is embedded in Japanese consciousness. I have taken these experiences and dwell in them as much as possible here in the States. Even in an urban parking lot, I see tall, wild grass with clarity – the resilience of nature. […] I find it’s easier and paradoxically more relaxing to worry about the prey and to feel the sadness of the cardinal’s color changing seasonally than to think about myself. […] I’m trying hard to create and build a way of seeing myself as part of nature in the Japanese tradition. (page 108)
Scott, it seems that you have already mastered the Japanese attitude towards nature and that you can feel part of it just like the Japanese: congratulations! I am glad that we share the same consciousness! I believe that, no matter if in the United States or in Japan, you will be able to feel in harmony with nature and gain peace.
Please keep on sharing your discoveries. People who’re coming to Japan should all read Why Be Happy? in advance! Also, please tell them that staying at ryokan is one of the best ways to experience the Japanese hospitality and access the Japanese mindset. Each high-end ryokan has its own unique character, but the appreciation of the nature and peacefulness is common to all. Here at Beniya Mukayu, we always encourage guests to tune into the rhythm of nature through experiencing the forest garden, the architecture, the rooms, the hot spring baths and spa treatments, the food… Ultimately, we hope that, during their stay with us, our guests will find their position in nature, accept its embrace, feel part of it and therefore acquire the Japanese mindset towards nature that can bring along calmness, happiness and peacefulness.
Scott: Staying at a ryokan can be an addictive experience in the sense that you long, as least I do, to return to a place where solitude is prized. But it’s not strictly addictive because addiction implies seeking something outside of yourself; you can hold in your heart the feelings inculcated in you from a ryokan stay, and make that emotional fabric part of your life.