I visited Ikeda Spa’s Clarke Quay branch (there is another in Bukit Timah), which isn’t the most obvious location for a Japanese day spa. Situated on the fifth floor car park of The Central mall, it is not necessarily a spot where the word ‘Zen’ meanders to mind. Nevertheless, once you step inside the sliding shōji doors, take off your shoes and feel the tatami flooring beneath your feet, what lies outside its walls quickly becomes irrelevant.
Ikeda Spa Prestige is flooded with warm lighting, wooden interiors and spa therapists speaking in soothing, hushed tones. Staff members flit in, out and between rooms and behind folding screens with haste in preparation for your treatment as you simply enjoy a warm cup of tea beforehand. For such an intimate space, it operates like a well-oiled machine, with the kind of efficiency and organisation so stereotypically Japanese.
If there is one thing that cannot be missed at Ikeda Spa, it is taking a dip in the Hinokiburo Sento – the communal onsen-style bathhouse. This isn’t just any ordinary hot tub. Akin to a Japanese hot spring, the onsen water is enriched with healing minerals, achieved by an ionisation technology used by the spa. A half-hour soak promises to rid you of your stresses, anxieties and muscle tension – something I feel we could all do with at least once in a while. Though it’s not just the magical properties of the water that help wash the stresses away. The Hinoki wood of the bath itself (Japanese cypress wood, traditionally reserved for royalty) releases natural oils to help soothe the skin and even has anti-bacterial properties. Coupled with the dim lighting, sounds of trickling water and a box-lit illustration of Mount Fuji in winter (acting as almost an artificial window view)… if you squint hard enough, you might just be able to convince yourself you’re on holiday in Japan.
On the other side of the room sits a clock, to help you monitor your length of time in the tub. A handy feature considering I was under strict instruction to spend 30 minutes (and no more) in the bath before returning to my private suite for a much-desired massage. My massage was scheduled at 1:50pm and I hesitate to wonder if it would have gone on, had I not made it in time.
Lucky for me, I never had to find out. With my head plopped in the mattress’ face cradle, my massage began as on time as a Japanese train schedule, destination: bliss. I opted for Ikeda Spa’s signature Zen Candle Therapy massage (clearly having not learned my lesson since a previous spa experience that involved being embalmed in a hot wax sarcophagus for what seemed like an eternity).
However, this was thankfully nothing like that. Instead, special soy wax candles are used to gently heat an oil blend of shea, cocoa butter, jojoba, sweet almond and essential oils at a tolerable temperature of around 42ºC before being massaged deep into your skin over the course of an hour. You also get to choose from three aromatherapy blends – Bamboo Bliss, Sakura Passion or Yuzu Refresh – each with their own distinctive scent profile.
The mark of any truly good massage is one that passes by almost unnoticeably as you are so entranced by the rhythmic motions of a therapist’s strong hand. This was one of those massages. After having mentioned that my shoulders were particularly tense (as always), special attention was devoted to teasing out every marble of tight muscle that sat in my back like eggs in a nest. The flow of movement contrasted with a precise count of strokes (I think I counted five). Before I knew it, I was being (unwillingly) roused from my pseudo-slumber.
Ikeda Prestige Spa is not the biggest spa on the island, nor is it the best known. However, they are very good at what they do. Its slightly unconventional spot in the heart of Clarke Quay is almost charming in its own right and is a great refuge, especially after a night of heavy-duty revelry at the nightclubs just across the river.
By Marissa Trew | Images courtesy of Ikeda Spa
• Ikeda Spa Prestige, 05-22 Clarke Quay Central, Eu Tong Sen Street, tel: 6388 8080, ikedaspa.com
Dr. Julian Davison is something of an anachronism. On his