Ganbanyoku translates as “bedrock bath” or “rock bathing” and is reputed to improve circulation and skin tone as well as relieving muscle fatigue and tension. Many Japanese flight attendants believe it is an excellent way to detox after a long-haul flight.
The Ishi No Yu Stone Spa is a short walk from the Aeon Center, a shopping plaza in Narita. Most of the major hotels close to Narita International Airport, the airport that serves Tokyo, have shuttle buses to downtown Narita and nearby shopping malls.
Japanese protocol prevails as you enter the spa foyer. Courteous staff members will bow to greet visitors and request that shoes are removed and placed in a special locker. Shopping bags and parcels can also be stored here.
In the lobby, guests can be found enjoying typical Japanese beverages after their treatment. Complimentary hot or cold tea is offered and you will pay in advance for other drinks and for the spa service. Noni juice is highly recommended for detox though it has a slightly bitter taste.
Ganbanyoku Spa Instructions without Speaking Japanese
It’s not necessary to speak Japanese in order to visit the spa as there is often an English-speaking staff member available and instructions are simple to follow.
- The attendant will offer a locker key, a stack of terry towels, a pair of cotton pyjamas, a bottle of water and a large laminated card with instruction for the stone spa written in Japanese alongside simple descriptive drawings.
- The small towel, or face cloth is used for brow wiping when sweating, the large towel is used as a mat on the stone bed and the mid-sized towel is rolled up and used as a pillow.
- In the powder room, a demonstration will be given on how to create a rich lather by rubbing soap through a mesh cloth. The resulting mound of foam can then be used to remove makeup.
- Each guest is given a small bottle of water conveniently marked with the time the treatment must be finished. Three bottles should be consumed during the visit tto the stone spa bed to replenish fluids lost while sweating. Refill the bottle from a cooler in the spa’s inner lounge.
Day Visits to the Stone Spa
Surprisingly, many Japanese women say the sweat produced while at the stone spa is like lotion, and not sticky or smelly like regular perspiration. They suggest showering before, not after ganbanyoku.
Enter the private change room and store clothing in the locker. Shower, pull on the two-piece cotton pyjama and enter the stone spa. The entire facility is very clean and even modest women will feel comfortable during their visit.
Inside the Ganbanyoku Stone Spa
The spa room is as hot as a sauna, but without the typical dryness. Temperatures on the stone beds average 42 – 44 degrees Celsius. Classical music piped softly into the dimly lit room creates a serene, retreat-like atmosphere.
The spa beds are separated by low wooden barriers to create private cubicles. There are clocks everywhere and an hourglass timer by the bed.
- Lie face up for five minutes and face down for another five. Leave the two larger towels on the bed and return to the inner lounge for ten minutes to fill up the water bottle. Continue to drink the required amount of water while in the lounge and after returning to the spa.
Repeat this routine three times and the treatment is complete. Many flight attendants find that the amount of sweat produced after a flight is less than normal due to the dehydration that occurs onboard an aircraft. However, this can be the best time for releasing toxins.
Cool off and get changed or shower again if desired. Drop the used towels and pyjamas into one of the wire baskets. Use the powder room to freshen up and then return to the spa lobby for juice or Japanese tea.
A membership card will be offered upon check-out which can be used on the next visit to the stone spa. Shoes and parcels can be retrieved and goodbyes, “Sayonara” and thank yous, “Arigato” offered.
Find a Stone Spa at Home or in Japan
According an October 27, 2006 article in Japanese Market News, there are over 2,000 stone spas in Japan. If you can’t visit the land of the rising sun, you might be able to find a stone spa closer to home, though online searches and local magazine and newspaper stories or ads.
© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.