At the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix, we recognize that Japanese Gardens serve as versatile spaces for relaxation, discovery, education, inspiration, and more. However, you might be intrigued to learn that recent studies are shedding light on how spending time in Japanese Gardens can profoundly contribute to both physical and mental well-being for our guests!
This healing effect emanates from the deep-rooted Japanese cultural belief in reconnecting with nature, epitomized by the practice of shinrin-yoku (森林浴) or forest bathing. Leading nature therapy researcher Yoshigumi Miyazaki explains this in his book Shinrin-Yoku: "When we are surrounded by nature, a feeling of comfort comes over us and our bodies become relaxed. Most of us would intuitively recognize this feeling, but until recently we haven’t had any evidence to prove it."
Fortunately, this landscape of understanding has evolved, and Japanese gardens, both within the United States and Japan, have embarked on studies yielding remarkable results on the health benefits of spending time in Japanese gardens.
One of the leading research programs in this field is the 'Stroll for Well-Being' program at Morikami Gardens in Delray, Florida. The inception of therapeutic walks within the expansive stroll garden at the Morikami Museum was prompted by heartfelt letters from garden visitors attesting to its profound impact on their health.
This initiative also drew inspiration from a growing body of literature highlighting how gardens enhance the emotional well-being of hospital patients and acknowledging the therapeutic benefits of physical activity outdoors. This combination has given rise to the 'Stroll for Well-Being' program that Morikami offers today. Participants in these walks have reported significant reductions in their levels of depression, feelings of release from stressors, a heightened appreciation for the garden's natural beauty, and a deeper sense of connection to nature and gratitude for their lives, simply from spending time in Morikami's stroll garden.
Outside of Morikami, there is growing evidence that suggests that exposure to natural environments can be associated with numerous mental and physical health benefits.
'Proximity to greenspace has been associated with lower levels of stress (Thompson et al., 2012) and reduced symptomology for depression and anxiety (Beyer et al., 2014), while interacting with nature can improve cognition for children with attention deficits (Taylor and Kuo, 2009) and individuals with depression (Berman et al., 2012).' By connecting back to nature, we can escape the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, and truly live in the present, free of worries of the outside world.
With this in mind, we ask that when you visit our garden, we invite you to do more than simply absorb the visual delights. Embrace the opportunity to be fully present and spend time immersed in nature. Our oasis in the desert offers guests a respite from their hectic lives and an opportunity to explore the lush greenery of the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix, forging a reconnection with nature and our shared human roots while promoting physical and mental well-being through wellness workshops like Tai Chi, Forest Bathing, and Aikido, alongside spaces for relaxation and meditation, or simply strolling with friends and loved ones.