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This Is How You Do Slow Travel in Japan

By Andrew Richdale


From the March/April 2016 issue

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Sometimes relaxation doesn't look like what you'd imagined.

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I recently spent six days buzzing through Tokyo, population 13 million. And on the seventh day, I needed rest. Unconstrained by anyone else’s schedule, I booked a ticket to Hakone, a village of onsen (natural hot springs) resorts near Mount Fuji.

The weird part of slowing down in Japan: It happens fast. Over the course of an hour, I gazed out a train window as the city faded to fog-cloaked trees—like those in the Pacific Northwest, but with the drama turned up. When I arrived, I hiked. I sipped matcha. I tied on a traditional yukata (robe), untied it, and slipped into the steaming baths. Fifteen minutes in, my shoulders sat lower.

The silence verged on eerie until a pack of sloshed businessmen killed the mood. White boy, where are you from? Fast-forward three hours and I’m sloshed, too, on sake, and singing the Beatles at their corporate karaoke party in the resort’s basement. Everyone cheered as though I were Lennon reincarnated. I hadn’t found the idle heart rate I came for, but I felt damn content.

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