Health and happiness in Tokyo
by Marie Teather and Elise Mori
There’s no denying that living in Tokyo can be stressful and taking a trip out of the city is all too often advised. Yet with hectic work schedules and busy social lives even the shortest of vacations are all too often put off, or at worst cancelled. Whether late nights at the office are disturbing your eating patterns, lack of opportunity to walk around in the fresh air, or too many alcohol consuming social functions to attend, chances are that from time to time your body, and your mind, requires some attention. Simply, we all need to take good care of ourselves, and whereas it’s all too easy to dismiss the idea of being pampered as less important on the grand scale of responsibilities and long list of things to do, you may want to consider that self-care is an important an aspect of stress management. Pampering treatments obviously are no substitute for a long-term healthy diet or regular exercise, but studies have shown that just a little self-care can trigger the ‘relaxation response’ where unlike the ‘fight or flight response’, your blood pressure, heart rate, digestive system, and hormonal levels all return to their normal states. A well cared for body therefore can deal with stress much better, immediately improve self-esteem and even rid feelings of resentment.
Luckily Tokyo is home to a plethora of places you can take time-out or indulge in some well-deserved pampering that will tide you over until your next holiday.
“your body is your first asset,
what line of business you are”
The Conrad Tokyo in Higashi-Shinbashi offers numerous tempting spa treatments for him and her at their sky-high Mizuki Spa. The modern, Japanese-designed spa evokes only feelings of tranquility and relaxation, whilst the treatments employed come from California’s Napa Valley and are designed by German, Dr. Spiller, all which come recommended by Vogue Nippon. There are many treatments available including the Ladies’ Spa Rituals which feature essence massages, aromatherapy facials, lip and eye care (¥34,650 for 120 minutes) and also the Gentlemen’s Spa Rituals which features a rosemary body scrub, full body massage and a fitness facial (Active Spa is ¥34,650 for 120 minutes). The Beyond Dreams course which claims to “Retain the dreamy quality of legend and passion in your life” includes a foot ritual, a grape seed wrap and a decadent sounding wine bath (¥45,150 for 150 minutes), whilst the extravagant Marine Caviar Deluxe course includes a hydro marine body scrub a flower bath, essence massage and tea ceremony and ends in a spa cuisine with caviar (¥66,150). See www.conradhotels1.hilton.com for more details or call 03-6388-8620.
Over at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Roppongi, the Nagomi Spa and Fitness has eight spa treatment rooms with private showers, and treatment beds. The swimming pool uses red granite stone imported from China and has a series of dry sauna and wet sauna rooms, a whirlpool, relaxation area and a treatment room for couples to get massages side-by-side. A day at the spa using the pools and saunas costs ¥4,200. There are also additional massages from around the world to choose from such as the Nagomi Signature Massage, Ayurveda Massage, Swedish Massage, and the Aromatherapy Massage. Prices vary between ¥17,000 to ¥23,000 for 90 minutes. Other courses include the Rejuvenation Experience which includes a chamomile body scrub and full body massage to aid relaxation and improve skin texture (¥48,000 for 180 minutes), the Gentlemen’s Agreement which first relaxes with a Swedish massage and then energizes with a foot scrub (¥41,000 for 180 minutes), and the Reset Experience which will prepare your body for a long haul flight by using oils on the face and body (¥23,000 for 90 minutes). For more information see www.tokyo.grand.hyatt.com or call 03-4333-1234.
Other treatment centers are Biguine, a French company with salons here in Japan offering exfoliation, body wraps, manicures and pedicures, hair removal and more, (www.biguine.com), and The Shou Salon in Omotesando which offers waxing, facials, and stone massage for men and women (www.shousalon.com).
Similarly, the MotoAzabu-based Zen Massage Centre has developed a technique specifically for orthopedic correction, relieving headaches, backaches, stiffness and poor circulation—especially to those who have been sitting at a VDU for hour upon hour every day. See www.zen-healing.co.jp for more details.
If you are looking for treatments to improve your well-being on the outside as well as working on your inner beauty the Tokyo Midtown Medical Center has four clinics that each specialize in dental care, supplements, aesthetics, or provide for your general medical needs. The Noage Advanced Medical Aesthetics works on its concept of “ageless beauty” using Fractional Tightening Therapy, the latest in laser technology, where an array of micro beams penetrate below the skin to restore the collagen and improve elasticity. The benefits can be seen immediately, but the full effects come through after two to three weeks. Kazuyo Takada, of the clinic says, “There is no downtime with this therapy. In other words, you can get made up and go to a party on the same day.” Prices vary so contact the clinic for advice. Other treatments at the clinic include acne therapy, hair restoration therapy, hair removal, and slimming therapy. See www.noage-amc.com for more details or call 03-5413-0082.
At the Advanced Suppli Tm Supplement Center, (also at the Midtown Medical Center) supplements are prescribed following a consultation and a course is devised based on your specific individual needs. As part of new understandings and developments in preventative medicine, a simple health check and following a recommended supplement plan can help prevent stress, other mental health conditions, and reduce common adult disease risks. For more information see www.tokyomidtown-mc.jp or call 03-5413-7913.
But if all you are yearning for is a little silence and stillness, you are not alone. Thousands of people come to Japan to study Zen meditation every year, and the only way to understand Zen it is to experience it yourself. Although Zen meditation is not a relaxation technique in itself, relaxation is a possible by-product of regular practice. An excellent place to begin your investigation of Zen is at Taizoin, a small temple near Kyoto. Not only do they offer meditation in English, with a special short beginners’ class, but you can also go on an ‘experiencing Zen day’, which includes meditation, calligraphy, tea ceremony, and a temple tour. Check out their English website for details, ww.taizoin.com/en/index.php.
Another option for some mental relaxation is staying the night at a Zen Buddhist temple. At the extraordinary Engakuji, ‘the number two’ of Zen temples in Kamakura, you can participate in the 5:30am zazen (sitting meditation) sessions, or later stroll around the grounds at your leisure. You should note however that when you choose a meditation centre or retreat, it is vital to be well informed of the practice schedule before you start. Some centers require a commitment to at least a week of silent and solitary retreat and you are advised that giving up halfway is not an option! www.engakuji.or.jp/index.shtml (Japanese only).
Of course, when it comes to activities of a more physical nature, you know you want to exercise, you know you should exercise, but somehow there just never is the time. But you should. After all, your body is your first asset, no matter what line of business you are in. According to a BBC survey, in association with the U.K. National Health Service, physical inactivity is an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease—in other words, if you don’t exercise you dramatically increase your risk of dying from a heart attack. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is still the leading cause of death in the U.K., accounting for about a fifth of all deaths, according to the Office for National Statistics. Even small amounts of regular exercise make all the difference. But if pounding the dirt around the Imperial Palace is really not your idea of a fun way to keep fit, what are your options?
There are plenty of great beaches to run or even walk along, within easy distance of Tokyo. Hayama is a beautiful stretch of unspoilt beach, an hour and 30-minute drive away from Tokyo. Beach-Hayama is an outdoor fitness club which offers trail running, Nordic walking, mountain bike hiring, trekking, yoga and a whole host of other hearty outdoor pursuits. Equipment and towels are available for rent and there is also an in-house sports therapy studio. See www.beach-hayama.com for more details. For other excellent insider tips on other more remote beaches and excursions, take a look at www.secret-japan.com, a website in English and French.
The benefits of yoga are often reported and your body shape is absolutely no indication of how ‘well’ or ‘badly’ you will do in a yoga class. According to the www.abc-of-yoga.com: “Yoga helps you become more aware of your body’s posture, alignment and patterns of movement. It makes the body more flexible and helps you relax even in the midst of a stress stricken environment.” There are numerous yoga schools throughout Japan and it’s worth taking the time to find a class and yoga technique that best suits you and get personal advice if at all possible. Sun and Moon Yoga in Meguro has classes for all levels in English or Japanese. See www.lezalowitz.com/sunandmoon-yoga.html for more details. Likewise, pilates is also a safe, gentle way to exercise with proven results. Body Arts and Science International have two studios in Tokyo, and English-speaking staff: www.basipilates.jp/english.
‘A much more appealing and nonetheless
excellent way to unwind fully, is to have
a really good laugh.”
Mental health care is of course as important as physical well being and if you do need help with any mental health issues you are experiencing in Japan, see the website of the International Mental Health Professionals Japan at www.imhpj.org. html. They have a list of links to approved therapists throughout Japan, including information for people living abroad that go through trans-cultural psychiatric problems.
Remember too, that when they say, “a change is as good as a rest”, what they really mean is that travel gives you the opportunity to see yourself and your own life in context. Japan is a big, complex country, full of unexpected and extraordinary places, and public transport is relatively cheap, efficient, and comfortable, from Hokkaido to Okinawa.
However, regular exercise or being wrapped in a full-body mudpack are not to everyone’s taste. A much more appealing and nonetheless excellent way to unwind fully is to have a really good laugh. In 1995, Dr. Madan Kataria was writing a paper called Laughter is the Best Medicine and Laughter Yoga was born. You can visit them at www.laughteryoga.org. There is also a local Laughter Group, with bilingual sessions, in Shibuya, and their telephone number is 080-3010-5726. A little more mainstream, is the Punchline Comedy Club, located at Pizza Express in Harajuku where you can laugh along to comedians from the U.S, U.K, Europe, Canada and more. www.punchlinecomedy.com.
But whatever form of stress relieving treatment you decide to pursue, just enjoy it; your body deserves it after all.