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Isolated from the pulsating sounds of pachinko parlors and the neon lights of Tokyo, the small, laid-back city of Takayama in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture offers something that visitors to Japan’s urban hubs don’t typically find: quiet.

Caught in the bustle of the modern world, we often forget the impact that nature’s stillness can have on us — and that’s what makes a visit to Takayama so worthwhile. No, it’s not Mount Koya, the Buddhist retreat near Kyoto, but Takayama — a short weekend trip away from Tokyo — is an ideal destination for visitors wanting to experience the calm that comes from zazen (traditional seated meditation). Originating in India and arriving in Japan from China in the seventh century, zazen is still practiced in temples across Japan today.

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