Odd Japanese spa options

Health - January 14th, 2011

Bored with the typical treatments? Why not try something a little off-the-wall

Judging by our long history in the hot tub, there must be something in our nature that calls out for a proper soak and an indulgent treatment. Whatever our storied history in the spa may be, the simple truth is that spending quality time in a wellness facility is a good way to escape the daily routine. You could, of course, start the new year with the basic facial, manicure and massage, but with some of the off-the-wall, decadent and/or previously unconsidered possibilities available in Tokyo, why not take your beauty regime a step further?

Here are eight options for the adventurous:

The Dr. Fish Pedicure

We all know how healthy it is to eat fish, but how would it feel the other way around? Since 2006, spas in Tokyo and around the world have been offering the so-called “Dr. Fish Pedicure” in which hundreds of little fish nibble on the soles of your feet. They are toothless, so they use their lips to suck the dead skin off your feet, stimulating acupuncture points in the process. The therapy was originally practiced in Turkey, where the fish lived in low-temperature hot springs and were used to treat skin diseases. (If fish aren’t far enough out there for you, how about having a snake massage? A spa in Israel offers a massage during which snakes slither over your body.)

Where to go: Oedo Onsen Mongatori, 2-57 Omi, Koto-ku, Tokyo; (03) 5500-1126; www.ooedoonsen.jp

Jade Hot Stone Massage

According to Chinese healers, jade is one powerful stone. Spas on the mainland offer a hot jade massage, where the heated stones are arranged on your body and a masseuse works away while replacing cooling ones with toasty fresh jade to relax tight muscles and make your body sweat off toxins.    

Where to go: We’re cheating, ‘cause jade massages can’t be found here, but Elana Jade does offer a hot stone massage; Latorie Memorial Bldg. 3F, 1-5-19 Azabu Juban, Minato-ku; (03) 6438-9895

Wine Bath

Attention wine lovers: Spa Center Hakone Kowakien Yunessun offers a pool filled with Beaujolais Nouveau. It may not make you any healthier, but you’ll definitely have a story to tell (the pool is even refilled from a giant wine bottle). If you are on the wagon, there’s also tea, coffee, and ramen noodle baths.

Where to go: Spa Center Hakone Kowakien Yunessun, 1297 Ninotaira, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken; (0460) 82-4126

Golden Facial

Ever wondered how it must feel to look like Cleopatra? ¥30,000  is pretty cheap when you think that you could be transformed into the spitting image of a golden Egyptian goddess. Umo Inc. offers a golden time and smooth skin after applying paper-thin 24-karat gold blocks (bundled with hydrating compounds) to your face.

Where to go: Umo Inc., Toho Twin Tower 4F, 1-5-2 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; (03) 5511-11335

Ear candling

Nowadays it’s not enough to look stylish, you also have to keep your ears clean. After American singer Jessica Simpson uploaded a video of herself candling her ears, the treatment got more publicity than ever before. According to some, ear candles are beneficial for the throat and nose, but there is a lively debate going on: others warn it could cause ear injuries.

Where to go: Hopi Ear Candling, #101 Beagle House, 2-6-15 Minami Yukigaya, Ota-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3728-1027; www.iyogilomi.com

Fire Cupping

Fire Cupping dates back to 400 BC, but if you think it’s also Chinese, I have to disappoint you, it’s from Greece. Heated cups are applied to the back, neck and shoulders where they create a vacuum, gently pulling the skin up into the cup, relieving internal pains. Be aware of the side effects — temporary burns and ugly, long-lasting bruises — unless you’re into that kind of thing!

Where to go: Ask your local acupuncturist

The Geisha Facial

The most remarkable thing about a geisha is her porcelain face. Now try to get your head around the fact that, according to the Shizuka Day Spa in New York, geisha used nightingale droppings to remove make-up. The bird poo facial moisturizes the face and cleans the pores — or so they tell you in NYC; here, better to double check in Kyoto.

Foot Massage

According to reflexology, by applying pressure onto the soles of the feet, a beneficial stimulation spreads into the whole body as different spots on the feet are connected to different organs, such as the kidneys and lungs. A warning: Your first foot massage will be painful, but only while it is going on — after you’ll feel as light on your feet as you’ve been in years.

Where to go: Most Chinese massage shops offer foot massages.

(Yonca Guler)