As a lad from a working class British background, I tend to shy away from wishy-washy, hippy-dippy alternative medicines. I’m from the school of thought that the majority of ailments can be cured by a mug of strong tea. So, when NAGMAG requested that I review New Sakae Acupuncture Clinic, I replied that I would rather stick needles into my skin (badoom and, indeed, tish).
But, much like other dangerous jobs – firemen, bomb disposal experts, AKB48 security guards – as a journalist it is important for me to step where angels fear to tread, and if that means getting a massage so you, my dedicated readership, can be both educated and entertained, then so be it. So, I found myself, sat in the waiting room, a look of barely masked skepticism on my face. New Sakae Acupuncture Clinic has updated their menu to include a choice of thirty-minute massages: shiatsu, Thai, aromatherapy, foot therapy, facial or chiropractic for ¥2160. In order to offer a balanced review of their services, I decided to allow the clinic’s manager Yamada san, to pick me a selection.
I soon regretted this idea, as the words Thai massage tripped from Yamada’s lips. My previous experience had left me bent and broken on a Ko Pha Ngan beach, but as masseuse Ai led me to the room of expected torture, she assured me that this was not the case. Having practiced massage for eight years, she was trained in Chang Mai, northern Thailand where, she explained, they teach a slower, gentler, more relaxing code of practice that follows the body more than the Bangkok variety.
A full Thai massage, she continued, tends to last for two hours, but seeing as how the Japanese as a people hold time as a greater commodity than their Thai counterparts, Ai has developed a full course that fits inside thirty minutes. She started at my feet, explaining the process as she extolled the benefits of her massage, the improved blood circulation, the release of tension and the increase of body energy through power lines. I raised an eyebrow at this last comment, but as she worked her hands and knees (yes, she used her knees!) up my body, I could certainly feel my enthusiasm increase and my skepticism slip as Ai stretched and twisted my limbs, like a two person yoga, and my muscles acquiesced to her unyielding grip.
As I climbed to my feet, aware that my proudly held cynicism was dissipating, I allowed myself to slightly enjoy it, on the basis that Thai massage could be considered medicinal. It wasn’t like something silly like aromatherapy.
Aya, the aromatherapist, bade me to remove my shirt and lie face down on the bench and, though my muscles were relaxed from the Thai massage, resolve stiffened. This was just the sort of hippy crap I had so often riled against. But, as she spread the warm, high quality, hypo-allergenic jojoba oil over me, I could feel resolve crumble.
My back, Aya told me, was hard. At first my male pride puffed at this presumed compliment of my beer-sculpted physique, but I soon realised that, as her nimble technical-school-trained fingers probed and primed my body, she meant that I was stiff. But in her hands, this was all about to change.
She explained that aromatherapy massage was not only good for the relaxing of muscle tension, but also for the autonomic nervous system, meaning that it works below the level of consciousness to assist with digestion and the respiratory system. I wasn’t sure about that, but what I was sure of was that it was aiding in curing my insomnia, as I found myself so relaxed that I was struggling to stay awake. This wasn’t uncommon, Aya insisted, and added that I was welcome to drift off if I so wished, but maintaining my professional dignity, I managed to keep conscious until she applied the warm towels, signaling her massage had ended.
As Oya, my final masseuse arrived, I guessed that there was little chance of my sleeping on his watch. He had studied at a chiropractic technical college and as a pretty big guy, he was certainly built for the job of bending bodies. He started with a deep massage, powerful thumbs digging deeply into pockets of flesh I didn’t know I had, all the while hunting out what problems my body may be concealing.
The diagnosis was that my pelvis was slightly out of line. This seemed rather major to my inexpert ears, it sounded like a trip to the hospital. Oya explained that perhaps that would be the case in the UK or America, but not due to seriousness, but rather that it is in hospitals where chiropractors work. However in Japan it is not considered permissible on the national health insurance.
Oya placed rolled towels under my hips and he climbed onto the bench with me. I held my breath expecting severe pain as he bore down on me, but was pleasantly surprised as the pressure, though firm, was constant and remarkably soothing.
And with that I was done. I dressed, and walked to the exit. Or tried to, as my muscles, body as limp as a rag doll, fought against the exertion, crying out for the laying on of further hands, but alas my time was up. However, as I left I promised to return to try the massage of second aromatherapist Mami, as well as to experience Aya’s acupuncture. Maybe it would work as a good healing accompaniment to a mug of tea.
New Sakae Acupuncture clinic is on the 9th floor of the New Sakae building 23-18-3 Nishiki, a three minute walk from Sakae station exit 8 and opposite Outback Steak house (although the building entrance can be found opposite the Jankara karaoke room). They are open weekdays 09:00-19:00, Saturdays 09:00-1700 and Sundays and national holidays from 10:00-17:00. For bookings and further information, check out their website www.newsakae-seitai.jp or give them a call at