When you think of freezing yourself in a -180 degrees Celsius chamber, you instantly associate it with a scene from a sci-fi film - someone is frozen in a time capsule and wakes up 100 years later.
Whole body cryotherapy is a form of non-contact cold remedy in which you are enclosed in a pod with liquid nitrogen flowing out at subzero temperatures, then exposed for a few minutes. Although its efficacy is still being debated, proponents cite various health benefits such as faster muscle pain recovery; healing joint pain such as arthritis; speeding up of metabolism; anti-aging; attacking cellulite; and even helping alleviate depression. There is a growing number of cryotherapy enthusiasts, especially among celebrities and athletes, across the globe, with the highest number of salons in the U.S.
Satomi Toguchi is owner of Cryo Tokyo, the only cryotherapy salon installed with the most popular cryo chamber brand by Impact, as well as chairperson of Puma Toguchi Boxing Gym, and the head of the Japan Cryotherapy Promotion Association. Toguchi is a strong and determined lady whom I found very inspiring.
What got you interested in cryotherapy?
About seven years ago, one of our former boxing champions and the manager at our salon, Cobra Suwa, showed me a photograph of Floyd Mayweather (former U.S. boxing champion) in a futuristic capsule. That’s how I got introduced to cryotherapy. I immediately searched on the web and found a salon in Tokyo that provided the treatment. I was skeptical at first, but when I saw that Suwa’s bruise healed in just three days, when it normally takes about 10, I knew this was for real. Even his doctor surprisingly asked him how he treated himself.
I brought him to cryotherapy once a week, and then almost every time after a boxing match, despite each treatment costing a fortune. That particular salon went out of business, but it was about ¥20,000 per 2-3 minute session. Managing a boxing gym isn’t profitable so I looked at purchasing the cryo chamber. I did some extensive research and found an exclusive Japan-made capsule. I knocked on their door and convinced them to sell it to me so that I could open a salon.
And now you are a successful business person. Was it exciting or scary at first?
At that time, I was good at taking care of others, but left myself on the side. It might be hard to imagine but I wasn’t healthy. I was asthmatic, sleep deprived and suffering depression. But I’m a mother of three, so I decided to invest in my health. I applied for a loan from a bank which was tough at first because bankers thought cryotherapy was so risky. But then again, boxers are risking their lives everyday, right? Business is like risking lives too. Now I’m 51 and am very healthy. I can do business because I stay healthy.
I read that the brand Impact you have installed in your salon is the most popular cryo chamber among athletes and celebrities. How did you choose this brand and when did you open this salon?
About three years ago. I started with Saraya, the Japan-made machine. I knew it would be reliable and maintenance would be much easier than installing an overseas brand. As I stepped into the cryotherapy business, and after trying many machines around the world, I found out about Impact. It’s an American brand and by far the best chamber. I made a phone call to the manufacturer in the U.S. but was turned down at first, as many other prospective Asian clients were, apparently due to their hesitation in selling to Asian countries. To win them over, I flew to their Atlanta headquarters last October to attend their lectures. It wasn’t about financial power. They understood how much we admired their product. They finally let us be the first and only Impact-installed cryotherapy salon in Japan. In return, we act as a window for any other Asian customers because they are nervous about copied products. I make sure customers are lectured on the machine and are reliable.
And just in time before doors were closed because of the pandemic, I suppose?
Exactly. We imported the chamber in February this year. But the engineer told us he wouldn’t risk his life flying over for the installation. So we had to do it ourselves. The chamber arrived in a truck. The American company had no idea how small our salon was, so they sent the machine as it is. We had to have the chamber dismantled in the back of the truck and then carried the parts inside, but oh my, the reassembling was quite an undertaking, as you can imagine. But without Impact’s generous support, we wouldn’t have had the machine set up.
What are some of the Japanese customers’ reactions?
Well, they are surprised at first how cold it is. But then on their second try, it’s a piece of cake. People who have tried other machines recognize the difference between Impact and other brands. When they try our machine, they say it’s kimochii (feels very comfortable).
Having very sensitive skin, I got frostbite when I tried some cryo chambers. However, I stuck with it because I believed in no pain no gain. But an Impact machine doesn’t give me frostbite at all; in fact the coldness is much more gentle and subtle. Making results efficient and maintaining safety are the key factors. In other words, the machine must be reliable.
By the way, a Japanese rheumatologist is credited as the first to invent cryotherapy to treat rheumatoid arthritis. But at that time he used oxygen, so it wasn’t until later when a European invented one with liquid nitrogen to enhance vasodilation. If only Japan had engaged a step further.
Can you tell us the benefits of cryotherapy?
First of all, as for weight control, it’s said you can lose 800 to 1,000 kilocalories by standing in the chamber for just two minutes. For example, if your skin is 33 degrees on the surface, cryotherapy lowers it by about 10 degrees. This triggers the natural healing mechanism of your body and burns lots of energy.
Sometimes champion athletes need to drastically lose weight, but usually that results in flabby skin. The liquid nitrogen gives skin a tightening effect so you don’t need to worry about that. It stimulates natural anti-aging and that’s what’s so attractive.
In Europe, they have them in many hospitals, while in Japan, cryotherapy is still only a preventive procedure. But the effects are clear. The quality of my sleep has dramatically improved and I wake up bright and shiny.
Cryotherapy releases endorphin hormones to protect your body because it expands your capillaries, and the white blood cells start working at a faster pace. It not only lifts your spirit but also makes you relaxed. It also gets you in the survival mode to be at your highest potential. Some people use it to treat depression. We have many businessmen, doctors and lawyers come in to boost their spirit before important presentations.
Do you need to continue the treatment or can you see and feel the effects straightaway?
The more you treat yourself, the more you can maintain your youth. I haven’t caught a cold in three years. This is because cryotherapy boosts your immune system due to vasodilation and by increasing white blood cells.
Right now, there’s not a day that I’m not in good shape. It’s easier to tell when I couldn’t get treatment for a couple of weeks while on a business trip. I lapsed back to my pre-cryo body and realized how happy and active I was when I’m in the chamber on a recurring basis.
Lots of visitors come directly from the airport because it helps cure jet lag. We’ve had people visit after hangovers, too. Some women come to ease irregular menstruation and some who are trying to conceive come to improve their chances.
Why is cryotherapy not yet familiar in Japan and are there any other salons nationwide?
There are cryotherapy salons under our Japan Cryotherapy Promotion Association here and Ginza in Tokyo, as well as in Osaka and Nagano.
Many people ask me why cryotherapy is not yet popular in Japan. Japanese grandmothers used to always tell us, “Don’t get your tummies cold or you’ll get sick!” So I can understand why people hesitate. But in America, cold yoga is already a trend. When you sweat, for example in a sauna, your energy leaves the body with it. Some people are brave enough to dip themselves in a cold water bath, but some aren't. Cryotherapy is a much easier and quicker process than taking a cold water bath and it's completely dry so you don’t have to get yourself wet, and you can even do it with your makeup on. Models come in before their photo shoot with full makeup.
How did you get into boxing?
I actually had no interest in boxing until I met my ex-husband. Since I have a tendency of getting hooked on things, I think I fell in love with boxing more than my ex at the end. We established the boxing gym together but separated 15 years ago. His name is Puma Toguchi and he was a national champion, hence the name of the gym. When he retired, I took over the management. Eventually, gaining championship belts became my motivation. I’ve spent 30 years managing boxers and promoting fights. Suwa won us five titles in Thailand at the Asian championships. So you see, nothing is impossible.
What is your motivation?
I just like to master things I love. I live in the moment. Many women worry about what they will be doing next year, or how they will look in the future. But I try not to worry about what’s next. Similar to boxers. They aren’t allowed any time to think about the next round. Each round is important and if they lose focus and think about the next round, then they’re done.
I don’t have room for “impossible” in my head. I always believe anything can be possible. Challenge is my motivation.
After the interview, I had the opportunity to try whole body cryotherapy (two minutes for 13,000 yen) and a cryo facial (10 minutes for 12,000 yen). I must say getting into the chamber was a surprising and shockingly freezing experience. However, the aftermath, including a comforting relaxation and the sense of accomplishment overpowered me with an eye-opening awareness.
I then went onto the facial experience. A stream of vaporized liquid nitrogen, or simply cold air, traversed over my head first, then face and neck. It wasn’t too cold (especially after the whole body experience) because the aesthetician makes sure to keep moving the nozzle, otherwise the -150 degrees Celsius air will give you frostbite. It is said to cure inflammation, psoriasis, heal tissue damage and revitalize the skin.
While you get your facial treatment, you wear a set of NORMATEC air pressure boots for the foot massage. These boots are popular among athletes for quicker recovery. It can simply be good for circulation for non-athletes, and on a side note, supposedly a sponsor for the Marvel film “Iron Man.”
Toguchi gifted me a pack of oxygen water at the end of the session. “Please drink the whole pack and you will feel your bloating disappear. You’ll likely go to the bathroom every so often today,” she advised, and that was exactly what happened. As mentioned, I slept better than normal with my body feeling lighter the next morning. My skin felt softer and brighter too. As for me, these results are enough to go back.
A bilingual former boxing champion will guide you through the journey. There is a six-ticket package for whole body cryotherapy used within three months for ¥50,000.
Address: 3F 2-1-1 Azabujuban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Puma Toguchi boxing gym:© Japan Today