The mysterious Japanese art of shinrin-yoku is coming to Britain - but does it really improve your health?
The next morning, I meet two ladies who dispel any lingering scepticism. Piling baskets of cedar leaves into a giant steamer in a small workshop on the Kumano Kodo route, they make 100 per cent natural essential oils from surrounding trees.
And – the bit that my rational brain loves most – they are collaborating with university scientists who have discovered that Kumamo Kodo cedar tree oils can counter the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Scientists have found special scientific elements in these trees,” explains Manami Takehara, founder of tree oil company M’affably. “This must be connected to their history as pilgrim routes. In ancient times, people came here to be healed, smelling the forest aromas as they walked. They do the same today.”