Relaxation therapy for busy people

by Junko Takahashi

Shiatsu, acupuncture and moxibustion are for older men — at least, that’s what was believed.

As recently as five years ago, young women kept their distance from massage parlors, which tradition had set in small, gloomy residential quarters tended by a single masseur who kept the price list in his head and not his window.

Then things started changing. Clean, bright massage parlors began to sprout up in Tokyo’s commercial districts like Ginza and Shibuya, offering what is known as a “quick massage” or “time massage” for about 100 yen a minute.

Their location in convenient and fashionable areas, clear price breakdowns and introduction of massage chairs, for which customers do not have to change out of their clothes and into gowns, started luring young working women, said Takeshi Kasuga, manager of shiatsu parlor Rebirth in Ginza.

“Now massages are quick and cheap, and you can get them just a block away from your office,” Kasuga said, adding that 50 percent of the shop’s clientele is made up of women.

Yoshikatsu Nozawa, a salesman from Yokohama, is a regular at the parlor. Like many other working people, Nozawa comes in during his lunch break or whenever he can pop out of the office.

“I come here often when I come to Ginza (for sales work). It’s cheap, and I feel so refreshed after 15 minutes or 30 minutes (of massage),” Nozawa said.

Along with the quick massage offered at spots like Rebirth, many different types of relaxation therapy have recently become popular among young women and men.

Following is a guide to some of the relaxation spots in Tokyo:

In addition to massage, Rebirth also offers acupuncture and moxibustion. Its hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. Shiatsu costs 1,500 yen for a 15-minute session, 3,000 yen for 30 minutes and 4,500 yen for 45 minutes. For more information, call Rebirth at (03) 3563-2627.

Another quick massage spot, Temomin, is located on the fourth floor of the Daimaru department store connected to Tokyo Station.

Clients take the massage chair for short sessions of 10 or 20 minutes priced at 1,000 yen and 2,000 yen, respectively, and the traditional bed for 6,000 yen 40-minute sessions.

Temomin is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and until 7:30 p.m. on weekends and national holidays. Call (03) 3217-1780 for more information.

For a softer, more soothing massage, aromatherapy salon Re:lax in Ginza offers 30 minutes of back or leg treatment for 4,000 yen, and 60 minutes of full body treatment for 8,000 yen.

British-trained aromatherapists select the essential oils that suit each customer’s physical and mental conditions.

“As aroma oil goes into the body through the skin, and as the smell is felt, the treatment works to relax not only the body but also mental stress,” explained Shinsuke Shibata, president of Re:lax Corp.

The exclusive salon for women is open from noon to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and until 6 p.m. on Sundays and national holidays. For details, call (03) 3573-6770.

While massages are getting cheaper and easier to find, a luxurious full-treatment massage is one sure way to pamper yourself with relaxation.

Wacoal Total Beauty Salon Amoem offers more than 30 courses of body, facial and foot treatment at prices ranging from 7,000 yen to 40,000 yen.

Amoem, a long-standing aesthetic salon for women, introduced a 30-minute head and shoulder massage two years ago that includes body or facial treatment.

“Many people suffer from stiff shoulders and headaches because of the long periods of time they spend in front of computers,” said Tomoko Yotsumoto, an Amoem spokeswoman.

And stress, she says, is a major cause of skin troubles for many women who come to the salon. Amoem’s new oxygen facial treatment, priced at 15,000 yen for 60 minutes, helps revitalize the skin’s breathing function damaged by mental stress and air pollution.

Amoem, located in the Spiral building in Omotesando, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and is closed on the third Wednesday of every month. For more information, call (03) 3498-5797.

A high-tech alternative to aromatherapy, aesthetic or massage salons is the relaxation capsule offered at Applewoods, opened recently on the second floor of Daimaru department store near Tokyo Station.

For 3,500 yen, you can lie in a chamber 25 minutes as the aroma of essential oil wafts in, and a warm pad and vibrations loosen up your muscles. With the changing colors of light and healing music played on the headphone, the chamber lets you completely escape the hustle of urban life.

“Some people don’t want to be touched or even talked to at salons. The capsule works best for busy people who want to relax alone, and quickly,” said Kazumi Tanaka, director of Nippon Bridal Center Co., which operates Applewoods.

The chamber is not for women only. “Men tend to become regulars once they know how good it feels,” Tanaka said.

Applewoods is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and until 7:30 p.m. on weekends and national holidays. Call (03) 5223-2333 for more information.

If a massage can’t solve your back, neck or leg problems, you may want to try chiropractics.

Chiropractics is not recognized as medical treatment under Japanese law, but it is very effective in relieving headaches, backaches, stiff necks or knee pains, according to Hiroaki Takeyachi, a chiropractic doctor at the Tokyo Chiropractic Center in Aoyama.

Chiropractics, legalized in some 30 countries today, helps relieve troubles by correcting distortions of the spinal structure and the nerve system with a hand technique.

“Many problems that surgeons couldn’t cure have been solved with chiropractics,” said Takeyachi, who is also a plastic surgeon.

All three chiropractors at Tokyo Chiropractic speak English. Takeyachi says many of those who come to the clinic are foreign business people or diplomats.

Tokyo Chiropractic is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed Sundays, Thursdays and national holidays. A 15-minute treatment costs 6,000 yen. Call (03) 3478-2713 for more information.

Salon and massage experts recommend making the most of your treatments by going before meals and visiting several times, not just once, to feel the real benefit of the treatment.

“Massage helps improve the digestive function and sharpens the sense of taste,” said Kasuga of Rebirth. “So go for good food after getting a massage because bad food would taste even worse.”