spa review

CHI Spa at Shangri-La Tokyo: Full body detox treatment cleanses body and mind

By Maki Yasuda

The Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo is just a minute’s walk from JR Tokyo Station, the Grand Central of this capital city, but the mood inside the hotel is a world away from the bustle of the terminal and surrounding business district. It starts right from the moment you enter the hotel, whisked up to the 28th floor lobby in a glamorous elevator decked out in polished wood paneling and mirrors, topped off by a chandelier dripping with crystals. The lavish style continues on with zeal inside the hotel, decorated in dark rich tones of beige, maroon and brown, accented by glimmering gold and sparkly fixtures. A quick change of elevators will take you up to the 29th floor and you will find yourself at the doorstep of the CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La, known for treatments with heavy focus on enhancing spiritual and mental wellbeing.

The spa’s reception area is welcomingly intimate. Hardwood floors set a more natural tone, and there are colorful rugs and textiles with mandala-like patterns. Sheer cream-colored organdie curtains shield off circular sofa areas to make cozy tent-like spaces for pre-treatment consultations. Most of the other CHI brand spas around the world are housed in the Shangri-La Hotel Group's resorts, making the Tokyo location unique for this spa brand. But their aim is to recreate the resort feel at the Tokyo spa, so the treatment rooms are built with the some of the same specifications as their resorts, making them the largest self-contained spa suites in this city.

On my visit, I tried their Qi-Hai Body Work, an interesting treatment that uses various techniques to balance and stimulate the body’s qi. “Qi,” or “chi,” is the universal life force, or energy flow, in traditional Chinese philosophy, and “hai” is literally the sea, making this the “sea of energy” treatment. This treatment is actually a collaborative creation between the Chi and the British organic spa brand “ila,” founded by Denise Leicester, a renowned expert in natural healing. The name of the brand “ila” means “earth” in Sanskrit, and they uphold a philosophy of “beyond organic,” using only the purest, chemical-free ingredients that are naturally and ethically sourced through painstaking work with growers and farmers, often in remote parts of the world such as the Himalayas and the Amazon.

CHI, The Spa’s signature style is based on the ancient Five Elements Theory, and their original essential oils represent the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water. During consultation, you are presented with a tray holding five flasks of their signature essential oils to sniff and choose the one that feels right by instinct. During my consultation, one did stand out as an obvious choice, which turned out to be the Fire element oil, based on the aroma of rose. The therapist informed me that it expresses gentleness as well as curiosity, and is good for balancing female hormones.

After the consultation, you are led directly to the spa suite. The suites are indeed very spacious and totally self-contained, with a private bathroom, mist sauna/shower chamber and big bathtub. Carved wood furniture, artisanal jewelry boxes and other small items complete the resort atmosphere, and the incredibly soft and fluffy bathrobe by kashwere is also a nice touch. Qi-Hai Body Work starts off with a salt scrub, which I was told is for gently cleansing your “aura,” but I found the lemongrass scented coarse grain scrub is more than sufficient in giving the body a thorough polish. With the salt grains still on you after the full-body scrub, you are given time to sit in the mist sauna, which is impressively hot and steamy.

After the cleansing, you are back on the treatment bed for the body massage using oils by ila and the signature oil that you chose earlier. Special attention is given to the solar plexus, which is right below where your rib cage meets in the middle, and is a point of the body that holds a lot of qi. Heat poultices (moist herbal compresses) are applied to this stomach area in combination with the ila’s oil massage. The spa music is spectacular during this part of the treatment, a soothing and uplifting female vocal track that is utterly trance-inducing. I discovered after the treatment that the extraordinary track is actually an original of CHI, The Spa, which was made especially for this treatment, and the movement of the massage was actually performed according to its rhythm. No wonder it felt so amazing. I was surprised when I found out further that the female vocal is actually Leicester herself, ila’s founder and owner. The spiritual and mental aspect is really taken seriously at this spa, created by some of the most talented spa professionals in the industry today.

After the Qi-Hai treatment, you feel that you have been transported to a different world and have just come back. As the spa suite is self-contained, there is no other lounge-facility in which to relax after the treatment, so you have to get up to quickly have your tea, then change in the suite to leave. I suppose it is alright if one were at a resort where you can go and lounge back in your own villa or somewhere, but I found that it was a sort of abrupt way to end such a wonderful treatment. However, if you want to take your time putting on some facial cream and makeup after the treatment, ask the staff who will be happy to take care of you.

Qi Hai Body Work 1 hr 30 min  JPY 25,800

CHI, The Spa at the Shangri-La Tokyo Marunouchi Trust Tower Main 29th Floor 1-8-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8283 Tel: +81-03-6739 7880 (spa)

Hours: 10:00-22:00

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I'd like to get this treatment, but I'm so afraid to be attended by the young inexperienced staff. 5-star hotel's believes in Procedure Manual, meaning anyone can do the job. But I still believe in expertise.

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That's why I'd rather visit Takano Yuri or Pola where the same Expert attend to me each time.

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a salt scrub, which I was told is for gently cleansing your “aura,”

That's what I will tell to the cucumbers next time.

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