Peace and Quiet in Tokyo — Who Knew?
Escaping the noise and crowds to discover a hidden gem — a relaxing yoga sanctuary — in the middle of the world’s largest city.
In 2015 I decided to go traveling to Asia for three months. Sick of waiting for friends and colleagues to be ready to join me, I decided that the best way to follow my desires was to bite the bullet and book a trip by myself.
Two years prior, I had discovered the Law of Attraction, which had revolutionized the way I viewed the world. Through a personal breakdown of a relationship, I sought some kind of support and hope. In fact, I found much more. I discovered the world of well-being, meditation, and self-calm.
Yoga fitted very much within that genre and became a new way of life for me. I came to adore yoga and now feel that it is essential to this world we are currently living of iPods, iPhones, and automated everything. It is a door to a whole new world to discover yourself and others in an entirely new way.
I was fortunate enough to live in London, the capital of the UK, where opportunities to explore new hobbies are plentiful. I started attending yoga classes on weekend mornings and soon realized yoga was becoming a huge part of my life. I also meditated on a daily basis, and I was becoming a new version of my previously stressed self. When I boarded the flight to Tokyo in winter 2015, I was ready for a new adventure and to continue the balanced way of life I had adopted.
First Encounters with Tokyo
Arriving in Tokyo, I realized this was a city like no other. In fact, Tokyo is technically not a city, but an entire prefecture (like a state) that contains multiple municipalities. Depending on where you draw the boundaries, Tokyo can be ranked as the world’s largest city — and it certainly feels that way!
From the bright lights and colorful buildings to the unknown vending machines, this place excited me. At the same time, there is a great feeling of safety, order, and reliability. The sidewalks were clean, everything worked, and the people are generally polite and considerate.
My Instant Tokyo Crew
While I enjoyed the freedom of traveling alone, I was keen to meet other like-minded individuals. I jumped online and came across a forum for travelers.
Fast forward eight hours, I was standing outside a train station waiting to meet a group of single travelers all wanting to explore the city as I would. We nervously caught each other’s eyes and came together through a clear need to connect. Humans are indeed social animals.
We were a range of ages and backgrounds but shared a common love for travel. The ones that I really connected with also had a passion for yoga and meditation.
Finding Yoga in Tokyo
As wonderful as Tokyo is, one can very quickly to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of its complex urban environment and feel overwhelmed with the sheer size of the place. And after three weeks of traveling around Asia, I was missing one of my true loves, yoga. What better than to try a class here in Tokyo with my new friends?
I searched online for yoga in Tokyo and came up with various random results. However, one stood out — a studio called, “Be Yoga Japan,” that wasn’t too far away. The website showed that it was a beautiful studio located in Minami-Azabu, an upscale neighborhood with an international feel. The studio was conveniently situated adjacent to a subway station so we wouldn’t have to walk far.
Luckily there was no reservation needed for weekday classes, and as we were all travelers with no full-time job to contend with, this suited us perfectly. It was English-speaking too, which was a must because none of us spoke Japanese. We thought the drop-in class price was quite reasonable and decided to go together the following morning.
The next day, on a blustery morning, we met outside the station. Our group consisted of one boy who was a nervous first-timer and three ladies, including myself. Thanks to the magic of Google Maps, we managed to find the place without a single argument regarding which direction to take. We arrived with anticipation and ready to escape the excitement of the city for an hour or so and reflect on ourselves.
Our New Home (for the Next Hour)
We entered the building and were met by a lovely lady who told us to head up to the fourth floor. On stepping out of the lift, we were greeted by an area for people to take off their shoes, coats, and hang umbrellas. There were various notices on the wall about upcoming events. Turning right, we entered a small reception and shop area.
Behind the desk was probably the coolest and friendliest guy I had met on my travels so far. We paid our drop in session fee, and he took our names down to ensure we could be kept up-to-date with any further events. We explained we didn’t have any mats with us, and he kindly guided us to the corner of the studio where there were mats that we could borrow for free. I picked up a gorgeous mint green mat and instantly felt that this place was something special.
A cheerful sign on the wall instructed us to turn left and go through the door to enter the yoga studio. I felt that it was a hidden gem that was sheltered from the businesses of the streets below. We were fifteen minutes early, and so took a seat on the floor while our fellow yoga enthusiasts filtered through the door.
Soon the studio had filled, and we were ready to begin. The majority seemed to be foreigners, and there were a few locals too. I’m told that such international studios with classes in English are rare in Tokyo.
Meeting Our Lovely Teacher, Kaz
My friends and I arranged our mats in line with enough room still to hopefully perform the yoga poses where we didn’t end up playing twister with each other.
The instructor was a Japanese lady called Kaz. She had a huge smile that made you feel instantly welcome. She greeted the class and asked if it was anyone’s first time practicing yoga. Jamie, my new friend from Sydney, put his hand up along with one other girl. Even though they recommending joining the beginners class, she seemed quite happy to allow them to participate in the class and just modify any moves that they felt were too difficult.
She spoke perfect English, which I later learned is relatively uncommon among yoga teachers in Japan. I guessed she had an international background, but didn’t get a chance to ask. In any case, she was incredibly poised, very friendly, and led the class at just the right pace.
Our First Yoga Class in Tokyo
We began stretching in Child’s Pose accompanied by balanced deep breaths in and out. I instantly felt centered. This is what I had been craving, but only then did I realize how much. Yoga can actually become part of your day-to-day life, as much as breathing and eating if you let it. The class involved Vinyasa, which is the continuous flow of one movement into the next using controlled breaths.
The music was beautiful, uplifting, and inspiring. With every move, I felt grounded and at peace. Kaz was incredibly patient, taking her time to speak to everyone and ensure they were comfortable and able to perform the poses. She was by far one of my favorite instructors I have met since I had started my yoga journey two years ago.
As the class progressed, it was clear that Jamie was struggling. We probably should have taken him to a beginner level class instead. Nevertheless, Kaz was very supportive and helped him out as best she could.
At the end of the class, we were hot, sweaty and exhausted but wearing huge smiles on our faces. Walking out we all started the same conversation with each other, when could we come again? How many days left in Tokyo did we have and why are we staying longer?
We Had Found Another Side of Tokyo
We never expected Tokyo would be a place where yoga could be experienced to such an enjoyable level. It certainly is a much-needed escape from the city’s frenetic pace and an incredible way to recenter yourself.
Tokyo itself is one of a kind. A city I have never seen equaled in terms of uniqueness and development. Coming from London, I already live in an exciting and continually changing city, but Tokyo is on a whole other level. It ticks so many boxes of life experiences and offers far more than the limited, stereotypical images we see in the media.
What most people who have never visited Tokyo don’t realize is that dotted throughout the capital are little pockets of peacefulness. For example, nearby the Be Yoga Japan studio is a beautiful park, an ancient shrine, and relaxing cafes.
Through my research, this experience, and taking to various people I discovered that Tokyo offers a broad range of opportunities to learn meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness disciplines. While they are largely unknown to tourists, online media is giving these teachers and studios a voice and making them easier to find. If you haven’t tried yoga yet, please do and if you get the opportunity to do that in Tokyo, then you are incredibly lucky indeed!
- Just do it! Even if you only have a few days in the wonderful city of Tokyo, a yoga class won’t take more than an hour or so and will leave you relaxed and ready to explore the city.
- Go drop-In. For those visiting Tokyo as tourists or perhaps staying a bit longer, I highly recommend checking out some of the yoga studios that offer drop-in classes as I did. That way, you won’t commit yourself too early to somewhere especially if it is your first time.
- Go with a friend. Experiences are more fun when shared with someone like-minded. If you are a lone traveler like I was, you can go online to find like-minded fellow travelers. Obviously be careful to meet in a public place, use common sense, and trust your gut in any situation.
- Or, go alone! If you don’t find someone to go with, there are lots of other people coming to class alone and once you’ve taken that step to check a place out it won’t be long before you make friends. Everyone is incredibly friendly and are all there for the same thing.
Thank you for reading my story! If you have any feedback, questions, or would just like to share your experiences, feel free to post a response below. Namaste!