Discover the restorative power of walking in the woods with sound designer Kouichi Okamoto
If you’ve ever walked through a forest, listened to the wind rustle through tree branches, or caught the faint sounds of water rushing down a river, you have already participated in one of the best natural therapies for your physical and mental well-being—likely without even knowing it.
Forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) is a medicinal practise that is centuries-old, first founded in Japan in the 1980s as a therapy for city dwellers who were feeling the crush of city life during the country’s tech boom. The government took notice of the detrimental impact urban living was having on its citizens: from navigating dense populations, working long hours in the office and finding little green space in their radius, people were reporting more cases of depression, stress and myriad body ailments—all due to a sensory overload with their day-to-day routines. Forest bathing became the antidote for the grind: spend a few hours immersed in nature, and you will be healed of all that ails you. From purportedly lowering blood pressure, building stronger immunities and offering better sleep, the practise touts a full list of benefits. Today, forest therapy is integrated in national healthcare practises all over Asia, recognized as a stress reduction method and a way to combat chronic illness.
So how does it work exactly? Well, about as literal as it sounds. To “bathe” in nature means you bask in it by using all of your five senses. Exercise, this is not. Instead, it is about existing in nature (whether a forest, park, lake, or a garden) and letting the sights, sounds, and smells transport you into a state of mindfulness and meditation. We all know how good being in nature makes us feel. Whether we lie in the grass, dip our toes into a stream, or breath in the aromatherapy of clean air, focusing on these simple experiences can help us relax and think more clearly. Some call it developing a sixth sense. Others a state of mind. Whatever the case, being in the moment has powerful effects that can change us from the inside out.
Kouichi Okamoto, Japanese artist, sound designer and founder of Kyouei Design in Shizuoka, Japan, understands the transformative energy of nature well. Believing there is a deep compatibility between humans and the environment, the multifaceted creator finds inspiration via Japan’s four distinctive seasons, and how the varying terrain, weather and landscapes can inform our emotions and joy. “Forest bathing is a very healing method for me,” he says. “The rain, murmuring of the river, sounds of trees cracking, all of it can soften my thinking so I can discover new things and create new art.”
Championing this unique perspective, Canada Goose tasked Okamoto with a forest bathing exercise, if you will: We asked him to travel through the rugged forests and mountainous regions of his home in Shizuoka Prefecture to record the sounds of the forest for an immersive piece of audio we could share. The intention? For everyone to find a moment of peace amidst the chaos of a global pandemic. “In these uncertain times, forest sounds can be incredibly healing,” says Okamoto. “I hope these sounds will reach people who are not able to go out and experience nature for themselves.”
For now, find a comfortable chair, in a quiet corner. Click the links below and close your eyes. Let his recordings transport you to the serene foothills of Mount Fuji. Breathe. Relax. Just be.
Being around water can make us calmer and feel more creative, and its lyrical sounds are often used a salve for an anxious mind.
The sounds of nature are the best source of meditation: Bird song, waves lapping on streams, wind blowing through the trees. Listen to what nature is telling you—it has a lot to say.