Traveling, to me, has always been about beauty. The beauty of new landscapes, new encounters, new tastes. There must be a story, an arch, something to bring back beyond souvenirs. I actually don’t shop much when I travel. What I look for is inside, new points of views, beliefs, that one second that changes you forever.
That’s why I’m very thoughtful about picking the places I travel to and the people I travel with, whether it’s for work or play. When Shiseido, the 140 year old Japanese brand, offered to take me to Japan, I got very excited. And when I looked at our itinerary, I got very inspired.
No helicopters, hot-air balloons or private jets. Instead, a thoughtful journey through the depths of Japan. A trip in style and comfort, of course, Shiseido knows how to honor their guests.
But with real attention to the meaning of the adventure.
I was in.
You all know about Japan. How far it is, how different, how inspiring. People are lovely, your eyes never get bored, everything is new. I had only been to Tokyo and I knew I was missing a big part of the story. Which is why I was thrilled when we hopped on the bullet train direction: the coast.
There I finally discovered a different side of Japan’s beauty. The sea, the mountains, the nature!!!
At the Amanemu, I was able to take a bath in hot springs for the first time and I have yet to understand how this works, but here is what happened… The first time I went in, it was as if half of the weight of stress I was carrying went away. I could feel a sudden lightness of being, one I hadn’t experienced in years. I couldn’t get enough. I would have spent all of my nights in there if I could.
Bathing is a very traditional ritual in Japan. One with very precise gestures. The idea behind it is one of purification, or communion with nature. We probably did everything wrong, but the benefits were immense.
Bath after bath, the stress was slipping away, and the effects became more and more subtle which I think meant there was no stress to be taken off my shoulders anymore. How amazing is that?
I guess that was the perfect moment to experience Future Solution LX – Shiseido’s newest line of restorative, anti-aging products. Here I was treated to a Yutaka facial, which accompanies the Future Solution XL line. The facial is a multi-sensory experience intended to enhance the luxurious formula’s benefits, which includes the regenerating Enmei herb, known for its health benefits and assisting in recovery. Actually, there’s an old Japanese legend about a Buddhist monk, Kobo Daishi, who gave the Enmei herb to a sick traveler, and he completely recovered.
Shiseido gathered the herb from the sacred grounds of Mount Koya, which still grows there today, to cultivate the highest quality extract in their labs, and paired it with some of their other amazing ingredients to create SkingenecellEnmei – which is an anti-aging ingredient in Future Solution LX. The perfect balance between science and nature!
The facial ritual is also inspired by the beautiful precision and mindfulness of every gesture that you find in Japan. I’m afraid to say that between the hot springs, the beauty of the landscapes and the magic hands that were working on my face, I was so relaxed that…I completely fell asleep.
Yoko Kanou, my aesthetician laughed a lot when she saw my surprised face as we reached the end of the treatment. “I hope I didn’t snore,” I said, as any chic westerner with no sense of self would do. She laughed even more and pointed at a mirror.
I looked flawless. There is no way a princess like me could have snored. (Oh by the way, another amazing tip, the Yutaka facial and other Future Solution LX services will soon be available at your local Shiseido counter so be sure to stop in for more details. Yes, the product is amazing, but the treatment with the product is a game changer.)
As if there hadn’t been enough magic already, we were heading to Mount Koya the morning after.
This was the moment I had been waiting for. “Pack light!!!” Nicole and the team at Shiseido had told us. We tried, I promise. We were off on a tiny train and then a bus on a very, very, very windy road.
Truth is, Mount Koya is so beautiful I got swept up in the view and forgot we were even traveling. I thought the experience was getting close to perfection when we entered our bedrooms…simple tatamis in a buddhist monastery. A dream of mine. I sat there, in that timeless moment. It could have been 100 years ago, it would have been the same. I got absorbed and almost forgot it was time to go to our meditation lesson.
Now, if there is a thing you know about me, it is my quest for balance and living well. I think meditation is a huge part of that and I struggle everyday, with a few moments of magic, to meditate. So, a meditation lesson with a real monk? And a cute monk at that?
I was in paradise.
Ok, so the cuteness of the monk shouldn’t be a factor. I know. But I wouldn’t say it hurts.
It was a fun, interesting moment. Tamura-San, our monk, knew a lot about us westerners; our cluttered minds, our tense bodies, our obsessions with our phones.
How would he know?
Well, because he was on Instagram, what do you think?
It’s one thing I’ve always loved about Japan. Technology and ancient rituals live together, happily. Why would we always have to view them as opposing concepts?
Meanwhile in our monastery, food was being prepared. I was told this would be a simple meal, but it was the most delicious one I’ve ever had. And to follow, the best night ever. Warning: I might want to install a tatami in my home.
By then I was as relaxed as can be, my skin as joyful and perfect as it had ever been, my mind still and happy. I was bathed in the beauty of nature, awed by the intricate perfection of the temples surrounding us, and grounded by the Mount Koya cemetery a step away from our monastery, one of the most intense and jaw dropping places I’ve ever been in my life.
And that’s the moment when, very, very early in the morning, we decided to go to a fire ceremony.
We sat in silence and listened to the chants, beautiful and monotone, got wrapped in the smell of incense and the profound reverence of the place. And right then and there I let it out. I started crying in the dark. Crying about my life, crying of relief, of beauty, and of gratefulness. I cried like a baby, sitting close to people I didn’t even know. Crying of joy and crying at the irony of me crying. And then crying some more.
When we got out and saw the sun shining on our faces (my glasses well in place on my nose to hide my red eyes) I knew I had lived a very special moment. That empty second, the one you bring back with you, that changes you and that stays with you forever.
If there was a journey to ever show me the meaning of beauty, that was definitely it.
I will go again.