In Japan, living a happy and healthy life is not a goal, it is just a habit. For centuries, the Japanese have been transforming day-to-day activities into powerful practices of self-care. Whether cooking, bathing, walking, drinking tea or making flower arrangements, any daily activity can be transformed into a form of meditation that allows happiness and health to enter your life. The secret? Paying attention to everything we do.
Here is a list of 8 Japanese rituals for a happier life that inspire us to deepen our immersion in the moment.
Ikebana is the Japanese tradition of arranging flowers. Dating back to ancient Buddhist flower offering ceremonies. It’s based on the idea that the process of working with nature to create something beautiful can be meditative and healing. Pieces are traditionally created in silence, so that you can focus all your attention on the harmony of nature.
To find peace and recovery, the Japanese practice something called shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”. Taking a forest bath means immersing yourself in a forest for several hours and soaking up its sights, smells and sounds. Simply being in a forest and absorbing its atmosphere has a restorative effect on the body and mind.
Japan’s ceremonial tea drinking, known as chadō, is a beautiful practice rooted in Zen Buddhism. A tea ceremony is a carefully choreographed ceremony of preparing and sharing a bowl of Matcha served with traditional Japanese sweets to harmonize the tea’s taste. Fully engaged in the ceremony, the tea master and his or her guests temporarily withdraw from the mundane world to share a moment of beauty and serenity.
Kintsugi, which means “golden joinery”, is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold seams. Shattered cups, mugs, bowls and plates are repaired into beautifully resurrected masterpieces, using a mixture of powdered gold and lacquer. It’s believed that the fixing of shattered objects—and the celebration of their uniqueness—may help the healing of wounds to the self.
Shodo, or “the way of writing”, is classical Japanese calligraphy. It’s an ancient art form, but it’s still widely practiced and considered an important way to foster a meditative state of mind in Japan. The careful preparation of the ink and the gentle brush strokes require complete focus and tranquillity, fully grounding the shodo practitioner in the moment.
Shojin ryori, which can be translated as “food of devotion”, is a vegetarian cooking tradition practiced by Buddhist monks since ancient times. Shojin cooking is all about simplicity and harmony. A shojin cook uses fresh ingredients of the season and makes sure not to waste anything—every last bit of an ingredient is somehow incorporated into the dish.
Omakase, which means “I’ll leave it up to you”, is a dining tradition in which the selection of dishes is left entirely to the chef and customers eat whatever they are served. A common practice at sushi bars, omakase dining revolves around trust, respect and appreciation.
The Japanese bathe daily, whether in their own private bathroom, a public bathhouse or a communal hot spring. They don’t just plunge in—the tradition of Japanese ofuro is carefully crafted to cleanse, heal and relax. Settling into a cradle of soothing warm water and simply experiencing the sensations of the bath—the water, steam, heat and fragrances—bring both the body and mind into a profound state of well-being.