FOREST BATHING

If you have been out on a nature walk through woods, you will remember the relaxed and happy feeling for a long time. Forest bathing, or forest therapy, is a loose translation of the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku. Shinrin means forest, and yoku (equivalently abiru) means to bathe or bask in. In this case, one basks in the pleasant and healing atmosphere of a forest. The Japanese have known this for decades, centuries, or longer. It is only recently that it has become popular as scientific research has proven its effectiveness. 

Here are two of the many news articles on forest bathing.

https://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20190611/forest-bathing-nature-time-hot-health-advice

https://time.com/5259602/japanese-forest-bathing/

In the second article, a link to “phytoncides” explains:  

Some research suggests that when people are in nature, they inhale aromatic compounds from plants called phytoncides. These can increase their number of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that supports the immune system and is linked with a lower risk of cancer. These cells are also believed to be important in fighting infections and inflammation, a common marker of disease. https://time.com/4718318/spring-exercise-workout-outside/

Here is a long survey paper by the author of one of the first books on forest bathing, a medical doctor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School:  

Qing Li, “Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function”.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/. Dr. Li’s popular book is Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, April 2018.

Quite a few books have appeared by other authors and they are easily found by a search on a book site. Also published in 2018 is the book by Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki:

Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing by Yoshifumi Miyazaki in June 2018.

Prof. Miyazaki was among the first to study forest therapy. He is professor at Chiba University’s Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences. An online interview with Prof. Miyazaki tells how he started. https://www.nippon.com/en/people/e00140/miyazaki-yoshifumi-explores-the-healing-power-of-the-forest.html.

INTERVIEWER   What is shinrin-yoku?

MIYAZAKI YOSHIFUMI   It’s an activity where people relax by synchronizing, or harmonizing, with the forest. The term was coined in 1982 by Akiyama Tomohide, director of the Japan Forestry Agency. The agency wanted people to visit Japan’s forests and relax. It was a way to increase the value of these lands.

INTERVIEWER   How did scientific research into shinrin-yoku begin?

MIYAZAKI   I led the first experiments to study the effects of the practice on the island of Yakushima in 1990. At the time, I was 35 and had no research funds of my own, but I was approached by NHK, which funded the experiments as part of a TV program. A new technique had just been developed to detect the levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, in saliva. We used that to measure stress and relaxation. “Forest therapy,” meanwhile, refers to shinrin-yoku backed by scientific data, and is a term that I coined myself in 2003.

These are some of Dr. Miyazaki’s earlier books in Japanese.

自然セラピーの科学 Shizen Serapii no Kagaku (Nature Therapy Science), October 2016

森林医学 Shinrin Igaku (Forest Medicine), June 2006, coauthor

森林浴はなぜ体にいいか Shinrin yoku wa naze karada ni iika (Why is Forest Bathing Good for the Body?), July 2003

Let us close with Dr. Miyazaki’s words:

MIYAZAKI   In Japan, various shinrin-yoku programs have been developed. These involve various activities: basic ones, such as slow walking and sitting, but also deep breathing, Nordic walking, embracing trees, yoga, meditation, stretching, and even picnics. There are also possibilities like night-sky viewing, cloud watching, playing in water, waterfall viewing, and enjoying music concerts in the forest.

Photos by Okunomichi

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Science Comics: Trees: Kings of the Forest by Andy Hirsch

Science Comics: Trees: Kings of the Forest by Andy Hirsch, 2018.

This is an excellent addition to the Science Comics series, written for children 9-13, yet also suitable for adults as well. Andy Hirsch has done an outstanding job of explaining in easy-to-understand and entertaining comic format the detailed information contained in the book by Peter Wohlleben (which is cited as one of the references, and reviewed in our previous post).

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THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES by Peter Wohlleben

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate. Discoveries from a Secret World, 2016. 

Peter Wohlleben is a forester in Germany, where he runs an environmentally friendly woodland and works for the return of primeval forests. He is the author of numerous books about trees. The following are excerpts from this stunning book, stunning because of its revelations about the amazing abilities of trees to send messages to other trees, to provide food and other support to neighboring trees, develop smart defense mechanisms and to share them. It’s almost as if trees have minds and feelings!

As we know during this critical time of climate change, one of the most effective means of survival is through the enormous capabilities of trees and forests to sustain life on this planet. We must learn all we can about these abilities and harness them in sustainable ways for a healthy planet.

Excerpts

A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. 

Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. 

p 4

Trees, it turns out, have a completely different way of communicating: they use scent. … The acadia trees that were beig eaten gave off a warning gas that signaled to neighboring trees of the same species that a crisis was at hand. Right away, all the forewarned trees also pumped toxins into their leaves to prepare themselves.

pp 6-7

Trees don’t rely exclusively on dispersal in the air, for if they did, some neighbors would not get wind of the danger. Dr. Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver has discovered that they also warn each other using chemical signals sent through the fungal network around their root tips, which operate no matter what the weather. …

The fungal connections transmit signals from one tree to the next, helping the trees exchange news about insects, drought, and other dangers. Science has adopted a term first coined by the journal Nature for Dr. Simard’s discovery of the “wood wide web” pervading our forests.  [S.W. Simard et al, “Net Transfer of Carbon between Tree Species with Shared Ectomycorrhizal Fungi,” Nature 388 (1997): 579-82.

pp 9-11

A tree can only be as strong as the forest that surrounds it.

p 17

The forest is really a giant carbon dioxide vacuum that continually filters out and stores this component of the air.

p 93

If we want to use forests as a weapon in the fight against climate change, then we must allow them to grow old, which is exactly what large conservation groups are asking us to do.

p 98

Forest air is the epitome of healthy air. …The air truly is considerably cleaner under the trees, because the trees act as huge air filters. Their leaves and needles hang in a study breeze, catching large and small particles as they float by. 

p 221

Forests differ a great deal from one another depending on the species of trees they contain. Coniferous forests noticeably reduce the number of germs in the air, which feels particularly good to people who suffer from allergies. 

p 222

The real question is whether we help ourselves only to what we need from the forest ecosystem, and — analogous to our treatment of animals — whether we spare the trees unnecessary suffering when we do this. 

That means it is okay to use wood as long as trees are allowed to live in a way that is appropriate to their species. And that means that they should be allowed to fulfill their social needs, to grow in a true forest environment on undisturbed ground, and to pass their knowledge on to the next generation. And at least some of them should be allowed to grow old with dignity and finally die a natural death.

pp 242-243

We encourage you to learn about trees and forests by reading this book. Another book, in comic-book style for young and not-so-young readers, is discussed in our next post.

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Lahaina Noon Honolulu, July 2019

Bikerack with a thin shadow

We now have several posts on Kau ka la i ka lolo, Lahaina Noon. The first was this. Please use the Search box on the right to find them.

This year in Honolulu, the date-time for the July event was  July 16, 2019 at 12:37 PM. The bikerack photo was taken one day early. The pair of photos was taken on the 16th at times closest to no shadow of a vertical pole; however the time on our camera was a bit off from the astronomical time.

And here is again our favorite stop sign when the sun is overhead, kau ka la i ka lolo.

If you are in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai’i, take your photos at: 12:26 PM (July 24th). Kau ka la i ka lolo!

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Agō Kiyohiko on Kototama

WoshiteWorld

Agō Kiyohiko on Kototama

“Kototama no michi is explained in super-ancient history of Biwako’s esoteric doctrine. Dr. Agō accomplished this momentous research in a lifetime career as pioneering director of the Biwako Research Center. “ 

These statements were retrieved in November 2013 from the website of the Biwako Research Center. The website is no longer online. Biwako, largest lake in Japan, lies in the center of Shiga Prefecture. It is of particular interest to students of Wosite as the Naka-Kuni Central Land of Isanami and Isanagi. Biwako is also of historical interest to geologists, biologists, archaeologists, and anthropologists as a region rich in human and natural activity from ancient times.

Agō Kiyohiko, former electrical engineer who spent his long retirement years studying ancient matters such as Wosite, made the following remarks about Kototama on this website.

“Kototama is the recognized spiritual function of Japan’s ancient language.”

“Kototama is a language…

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Kusihiko’s Yorogi in Awaumi: Yorogi Jinja and Ota Jinja

Ota Jinja

Ota Jinja

Ota Jinja is one of the Hiyoshi shrines in the Yorogi area. It is a simple shrine with just one building. The grounds are next to a rice field, newly planted and still flooded in late May.

In the precinct, one closed house with a main hall and two stone lanterns.

Enshrined kami are 太田神 Ota Kami and 宇須賣命 Ame-no-Uzume. A theory says Sarutahiko is also enshrined here. 元は、新宮とも呼ばれた神社で、現在、青柳にある日吉神社の飛地境内社で、社地を太田の馬場ともいい、式内・大田神社の論社。Before, the jinja was called 新宮 Shingu, now it is a detached shrine of 日吉神社 Hiyoshi Jinja in Aoyagi.

Yorogi Jinja

Yorogi Jinja

At last, we have found Kusihiko’s Yorogi Jinja!

How touching it is to find it on a rise, tucked in between rice fields. It still retains some of the forest of trees. Somehow it seems “brave” to have withstood the storms of time for more than two thousand years. And also it’s sad that so little of Kusihiko’s forest remains.

Gosaishin: 子守神 Komori 勝手神 Katsute Kami. Komori is son of Kusihiko and the third Omononusi. Affectionately called Komori-san, he is the kami of looking after children (komori). It is said that he had 18 daughters and 18 sons.

Yorogi Jinja is one of the detached shrines of Hiyoshi Jinja. You can see the trees surrounding Hiyoshi Jinja in the left background of the photo above.

Haiden of Yorogi Jinja

Photos by Okunomichi 2019

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Kusihiko’s Yorogi in Awaumi: Hiyoshi Jinja

Hiyoshi Jinja

Our series on Yorogi shrines continues. Hiyoshi is another name for Hie, as in the nearby Hie Taisha and Mt Hie-zan. When searching for Yorogi forest, we found two Hiyoshi Jinja. Let’s call them Hiyoshi Jinja A and B.

Hiyoshi Jinja A

This Hiyoshi Jinja enshrines Ninigi no Mikoto. There are several sha on the shrine precinct. There is a sacred spot marked as the original site for Ise Jingu, and there is a small mound of sand.

Original site of Ise Jingu

Hiyoshi Jinja B (Nishi-Yurugi Hiyoshi Jinja)

This Hiyoshi Jinja is affiliated with Yorogi Jinja, as this signboard explains. This Hiyoshi Jinja has a main shrine with the three kami: Ayakashikone no Kami, Ichikishimahime no Mikoto, and Tachibanahime no Mikoto. This shrine is known as 西万木日吉神社(にしゆるぎひよしじんじゃ)Nishi-Yurugi Hiyoshi Jinja.

Three other shrines located on these premises are: Akiba Jinja, Tenmon Jinja, and Inari Jinja. Off-premise affiliated shrines are: Ota Jinja, Yorogi Jinja, and Hachiman Jinja. We would next visit Ota and Yorogi Jinja.

Photos by Okunomichi 2019

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