Discover the mystique surrounding Japanese rituals so you too can reap the beauty rewards.
The art of beauty
When it comes to beauty, the Japanese have ritual down to a fine art. With their enviable skin and bright eyes, it's clear they are going about it the right way. And with the popularity of Japanese treatments, therapies and cosmetic brands booming, it has never been easier to get in on the action.
Put a shiatsu massage at the top of your Geisha girl list. Shiatsu, meaning "finger pressure", is a traditional Japanese healing method believed to cure disease resulting from blocked or unbalanced ki (energy) within the body. Ki can accumulate and become trapped in points along the body's meridians or energy passages and the massage realigns this flow using touch. Scientists, however, put shitasu's pain-relieving ability down to the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and the decrease in levels of adrenaline. Whatever's behind the magic, millions of people around the globe rely on shiatsu to keep illness and emotional unrest at bay.
What to expect
So what can you expect from a treatment? Unlike Western massages in which kneading and friction are used, the Japanese technique applies targeted pressure, stretching the muscles. A typical session lasts an hour and a course of five-to-10 visits is recommended if you are aiming to resolve an acute problem, such as tension headaches or lower back pain. Prior to your massage, the practitioner will talk over your medical history and find out about your physical and emotional health. You will remain fully clothed as you lie on a floor mat while the masseur touches your body to locate where the tension resides. Once the problem spots are found, a combination of techniques, including pressing, holding and stretching, is used. Overall it's extremely relaxing: it's only the uncontrollable gurgling stomach and body shuddering that cast a light shadow over the experience.
Get radiant skin
Radiant skin may be important in New Zealand but it seems to be a prerequisite for the Japanese. Women are taught by their mothers how to nurture their complexions from a very early age. While we have the tendency to slap on creams and lotions as quickly as humanly possible, women in Japan spend an average 40 minutes a day on basic skin care, plus an hour on facial massage at least three times a week. It's certainly a major investment of time, but if you look at how gracefully their skin ages, it's clearly worth every second. An easy tip to pick up from their ritual is the double cleanse once to remove make-up and once to clear skin, followed by a pressure-point massage. Much like shiatsu, massaging the face releases pressure from the muscles to rejuvenate and revive your complexion.
Key to facial massage
A great move for keeping crow's feet away is to apply gentle pressure all the way around the eye socket, using the pad of your thumb: begin at the inner point below the brow and move right round the eye to complete the circle. If it's worry lines that worry you, massage your brow using your fingers; start with both hands touching at the centre of your forehead, fingers slightly parted, and move out to the temples in small circular movements. While these are two of the most basic techniques, they can make all the difference to the quality of your skin.
With a tension-free back and line-free face, you can kick back and enjoy the Japanese drink of choice green tea. It's prized not only for it refreshing flavour but its powerful antioxidants that will keep you looking and feeling young. So drink up. Now, where's that kimono…