Japan: "Reflexology in the "Relax Forest"
“These days, ‘relaxation’ spots are as ubiquitous as Internet cafes and pachinko parlors. As people seek a quick fix for the stress of modern life, businesses offering anything remotely "therapeutic" or "healing" are springing up everywhere. Whether it's reflexology (foot massage) salons in office buildings, drop-in hand/body massage shops at train stations or aromatherapy practices handily located near hairdressers, you're never far away from a relaxing retreat amid the hustle and bustle of urban living.”
“‘Relax Forest’ is a part of a “sprawling indoor amusement park called Namja Town” in Tokyo that includes “Gyoza Stadium, Ice Cream City and Tokyo Chou Cream Field, this new "forest" may be more of a small wood—but it is nonetheless an exciting new outgrowth of the firm's (Nmaco Ltd.) continuing endeavor to test the limits of entertainment. It's also ‘Japan's first healing park’—whatever that means.”
“‘Sure, commercial facilities featuring health and beauty already exist,’” Ikezawa (of Namco Ltd.) said…. “‘But they have merely been a strip of shops. We are trying to offer them as a form of entertainment.’” Consumers feel many salons are too expensive and want a quick charge sometimes rather than the lengthier services of “nationally licensed massurs, acupuncturists” and others.
“So what can people expect from Riraku? The theme park features what Namco succinctly calls "super therapists"—ranging from a Nanjing qi-gong specialist to an Indian head masseuse, to a Thai massage therapist. One of the unique features of Riraku is that it offers a really quick fix -- some shops offer a session as short as 10 minutes.
“For therapists trained to minister to a customer for at least half an hour, however, exchanging pleasantries and offering a truly relaxing service in such a short time could be a big challenge. But, in fact, therapist Sachiko Nemoto of reflexology salon Precious Foot did just that when this reporter tried a 15-minute course there .… “… when she found a pressure point on my sole that was particularly tender, she suggested my digestive system might be in trouble.
“And she stayed professional throughout, despite the occasional "meows" and buzzings from a haunted-house attraction on the other side of the wall.
“Ikezawa acknowledged that Riraku will not be the quietest space in town…But Japanese people are used to—and can even feel more at home with—a bit of hustle and bustle, he said.
“‘It depends on what kind of iyashi [healing] you are looking for," he said. “‘Luxury resorts can surely give you a sense of healing. But Japanese healing started from hot springs, which have always been packed solid. Sparsely populated iyashi spots are only for the affluent class. We are targeting the masses.’”
Tomoko Otake, “‘'Relas Forest,’ Taking it easy in the urban jungle,” Japan Times. Sunday, July 17, 2005 (http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20050717x2.html)
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Barbara and Kevin Kunz