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Train Like a Warrior On This 5-Day Japanese Retreat

Not quite your average digital detox, but a 5-day trip with Japanese mountain hermits known as the Yamabushi, will serve as an enlightening experience that promises that you’d come out of it totally renewed.

 The Yamabushido program will make you trade speaking, bathing and social media for hiking through forests and meditating under icy cold waterfalls. The practice, Yamabushi, dates all the way back 1,300 years ago to help people separate themselves from all physical and emotional desires and discover their inner strength.

Yamabushi (2)
Image credit: WolfgangMichel

Yamabushi was an esteemed practice during the Samurai period in Japan as it helped warriors train. Surviving in the forest by hiking for multiple days, eating whatever they found, and continuously pushing their strengths, mentally and physically.

Are you ready to train like a Samurai? Well you can sign up for a five-day Yamabushido program which allows non-Japanese speakers to train with a 13th-generation Yamabushi, Master Hoshino and his disciples. You will be staying in his pilgrimage house in the Yamagata prefecture, surrounded by mountains, the Sea of Japan and the colour- changing lake, Goshiki Numa.

Yamabushi (1)
Image credit: Jordy Meow

Each morning, disciples are to be woken up by a shell horn at the crack of dawn and they have to be dressed in layers of thick white cotton known as the Shiroshozoku, which symbolizes the walking dead. Breakfast is a mere bowl of miso, rice and pickles. The hike through all three sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan starts at 5am, equipped only with wooden sticks and your white canvas shoes.

Throughout the hike, you would be stopping by shrines and would practice Shugendo, a belief system that incorporates pre-Buddhist mountain worship, Shinto, Taoism and esoteric Buddhism.

Even when it rains, the hike continues. Taking brisk steps and focusing inwards, silencing the mind. ‘Uketamo’, meaning “I humbly accept with an open heart”, is the response to every command of the Master. One has to be ready for any challenges that came their way, no questions asked.

Evenings were spent practicing Zen meditations, chanting the Lotus Sutra and being hugged by the smoke of burning incense. Men and women are separated in different communal rooms which had tatami mats at the Dashiobo pilgrimage lodge.

The entire program will truly make you comprehend the meaning of “Mind over Matter”, and will renew your physical and mental state one way or another. It is the best retreat to disconnect yourself from the business of the modern society and find peace in nature.

The Yamabushido full immersion program is only offered three times during the summer, though they do have 13 retreats that are less intense from the month of June through October.

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