Why Drink Sake When You Can Soak In It?

What happened when we went for happy hour at the spa.

What do you do when work is sending your stress levels skyrocketing through the roof? You head out for drinks, maybe have a swig of sake at your fave Japanese restaurant. Nothing spesh. But what if we told you that instead of drinking it, soaking in sake can also help unwind? That’s precisely what we did at Ikeda Spa’s Japanese sake ritual (from $218 for 90 minutes), which comprises a 30-minute onsen bath and a sake aromatherapy massage.

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The personal onsen room in Ikeda Spa. 

#1: Actual sake is involved – but you won’t get drunk
Our treatment begins with a half-hour sake soak in our personal onsen room (above). Before we begin, our therapist pours a small bowl of sake into the water, which is kept at 42 deg Celsius. The heady scent of sake is dare we say, rather intoxicating. And no, we weren’t tempted to drink it. We’re told that this calming bath doesn’t only aid blood circulation, it purifies and hydrates. Add sake into the mix and your skin becomes smoother, while the kojic acid from the fermented rice wine brightens the skin. Plus, the wooden tub that we’re bobbing around in isn’t just any kind of wood — it’s hinoki, a Japanese cypress wood that contains mineral oils and has anti-bacterial functions, and was once used only in royal buildings and shrines.

#2: Japanese onsen etiquette still applies.
Sort of. You have to take a quick shower before you hop in to the water, like you would in the Land of the Rising Sun. But rather than take the plunge stark naked, you’re given disposable underwear to change into. The plus side: you don’t have to feel shy about baring all since you’re the only one in the room (though there are couple rooms as well). We’re told to take a shower every 10 minutes if it gets too hot. Don’t worry about how you’re going to keep time — there’s a timer perched in the corner for your convenience. Relax, watching the clock tick doesn’t make the experience any less zen.

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Are we on holiday at a traditional ryokan or a massage room at Ikeda Spa?

#3: It’s a slice of Japan…right here in Singapore.

I leave the onsen suitably supple, and shuffle over to the next room for a 60-minute sake aromatherapy massage (above). For this, a blend of oils and a high-grade sake extract (similar to what's used in sake-based skin products on the market, which has hydrating benefits) is used. Our therapist may not be Japanese, but going by her level of attentiveness, she may as well be. She is aghast when she begins to knead our shoulders, and remarks that it’s “very tight” (we blame it on the hours hunched over the laptop) and tries her darndest to ease the tension and knots without making us feel like minced meat. It wraps up with a uber-relaxing head and shoulder massage that sends us straight to la-la-land. Suffice to say, we emerge after 90 minutes pampered, hydrated and rejuvenated… without any hangover.

Sake spa treatments are available until Oct 31 at Ikeda Spa, 787 Bukit Timah Road and Ikeda Spa Prestige, #05-22 Clarke Quay Central, Tel: 6388-8080; www.ikedaspa.com/promotion/spa-deals-singapore-ikeda-spa-autumn/ 

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