Tokyo Sanctuary

In one of the most bustling neighborhoods in Tokyo, less than a mile from the Shinjuku train station through which three million people tramp each day, stands the spa at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Perched in a high-tech skyscraper 45 stories above the masses, the 22,000-square-foot-spa is simultaneously spacious yet intimate, serene yet luxurious. From the moment one steps out of the elevator, floor-to-ceiling glass walls reveal stunning views of downtown Tokyo and snow-tipped Mt. Fuji off in the distance. An enthralling experience awaits.



The soaring steel-and-glass hotel occupies the top 14 floors of the 52-story Shinjuku Park Tower, which was built by celebrated Japanese architect Kenzo Tange in 1994 at a cost of $1.4 billion. John Moford, a Hong Kong–based interior designer, simultaneously conceptualized the ultra-modern interiors of the spa and hotel. Together, these two luminaries designed the Park Hyatt Tokyo to feel like an elegant personal residence in the midst of the most populated, frenetic city on earth. Their stylish, signature touches include muted hues of deep green marble and grey granite, natural-fiber wall hangings, museum-quality artwork, and an abundance of gigantic windows and warm, natural light. With only 178 rooms, the Park Hyatt Tokyo is intimate by Asian standards, and the clean-lined design is a favorite among such movie stars as Nicole Kidman, Jodi Foster, and Russell Crowe.

The 26- by 65-foot pool, which is located on the 47th floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo-two floors above the spa-offers sweeping views of the city.
The 26- by 65-foot pool, which is located on the 47th floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo-two floors above the spa-offers sweeping views of the city.

The Japanese Bath as Art

As guests are welcomed to the 45th floor spa reception area by a bowing esthetician, the first thing she does is take their shoes. She then hands them plush cotton robes and shows them to the opulently tiled wet area, where they shower before entering the baths. (Shoes or slippers are not worn in Asian spas-they're considered unsanitary.)

"In our culture, bathing is almost a sacred daily experience, and we take it seriously. A bath not only cleanses the body but also eases the overworked mind and soothes all of the senses," says spa director Yumiko Yao. "The centerpiece of both our women's spa and the coordinating men's spa is the large rectangular communal tub that is set at 108 F to keep you warm and relaxed." There is also a cold plunge pool and three saunas of varying heat. "More than simply a pampering practice, moving from shower to bath to sauna to cold plunge, and so on, is ritualistic in our culture," says Yao. "There are hundreds of public baths and health clubs with wet areas in Tokyo, but we want a guest's experience to be superior at the Park Hyatt, so we are extremely competitive," she says. To that end, she reports that the average amount of time spent in the spa is three hours per person.

 Located in both the men's and women's locker rooms are eight-person marble whirlpool tubs.
Located in both the men's and women's locker rooms are eight-person marble whirlpool tubs.

About 200 hotel guests visit the spa daily, and almost three-quarters of them are male, middle-aged business travelers, says Yao. (In fact, most day spas in Tokyo devote much more space to men's facilities whereas the Park Hyatt divides it equally.) The rest of the spa's clients are mostly visitors from the United States.

Entrance to the health club adjacent to the spa (called Club on the Park) is complimentary for hotel guests, and the spa entry fee is $7. In addition, there are 820 local Japanese businesspeople who've purchased an exclusive health club membership to the Club on the Park for a whopping $7,000 per year! And they also regularly use the spa facilities.

Once inside the tranquil space, guests can take full advantage of the indoor sun deck, the lavender-scented eye pillows in the quietly cozy relaxation room, and many well-appointed grooming products. While guests wait for their therapists in oversized reclining chairs, they may order a variety of items-such as salads, sandwiches, and yogurt smoothies-from the spa menu.

The Eastern Spa Experience

Most guests take at least one big splash in the 65-foot pool that overlooks the city's myriad blinking lights. When guests float on their backs in the pool, they stare up through a glass-domed ceiling and get a view straight into the clouds billowing overhead. The 1,300-square-foot fitness deck has state-of-the art exercise equipment (including high-end Cybex weight machines and free weights), and the 1,300-square-foot aerobics studio offers T'ai Chi, jazz dance, personal training, body toning, and step aerobics.

Although Japanese guests come mostly to bathe, the headliner spa act is a 50-minute shiatsu massage (only $45), a traditional finger-pressure rubdown that stimulates nerve endings, boosts organ function, and relieves physical tension. Another popular treat is the 30-minute reflexology-based foot massage. For both, the therapist may incorporate a wooden Japanese tool called the "kenshinbo," which is thumped gently on the skin to help flush toxins from the body and further reduce anxiety. There are four roomy treatment rooms in the spa that have a calm, Zenlike appeal.

The spa at the Park Hyatt Tokyo has two massage rooms-the women's has three beds, and the men's has four. It is common in Japan to work on several people in the same room at the same time
The spa at the Park Hyatt Tokyo has two massage rooms-the women's has three beds, and the men's has four. It is common in Japan to work on several people in the same room at the same time

A range of basic facials, Swedish massage, and aromatherapy treatments are available. This is also, quite pointedly, the only facility in Japan to use the French line of Sothys skincare products, and they carry it to be competitive. "Our European guests do note and prefer this line, and they know it was Princess Diana's favorite," Yao says. The Studio Hatsuko beauty salon is run separately two floors down and offers a wide range of esthetic services, such as manicures, pedicures, hair blowouts, nail art, and full-body waxing. The salon has three additional treatment rooms and may outsource trusted local therapists and estheticians when the spa upstairs gets too busy.

Superior Spa Service

Guests of the spa are left in very good hands: Massage therapists must earn a three-year degree and take a national exam before practicing, and the spa also provides intense, months-long training for all other estheticians. Interest-ingly, spa director Yau does not have a degree in massage therapy but a business degree from Notre Dame Univer-sity. She oversees a supremely competent staff of 32, including polite spa attendants, club concierges, eight fitness instructors, and personal trainers at the health club. She says, "Our minute attention to detail and our constant efforts to make guests comfortable are what set us apart from the day spas and hotels across Tokyo. Plus, we are also constantly updating our spa treatments, changing fitness machines, and refurbishing the saunas."

In fact, such perfect pampering begins as soon as a guest checks into the hotel: Essential oils are provided in each guestroom. These vials, presented in custom-designed pouches, come with instructions for in-room bathing and may also be incorporated into any spa treatment and customized to your individual needs, says Yao. Such personalized touches abound.

If the spa at the Park Hyatt Tokyo cannot untangle the nerves or ease the stress of an international traveler or the hectic day of a businessperson, most likely nothing can. It is an unparalleled sanctuary in the midst of the biggest, busiest cities in the world.

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