Andaz Tokyo’s AO’s spa has finally grown up.
When this spa opened in June 2014, it was a work in progress. I could see the potential in its concept and spa programs, an inimitable mash-up of an herbal, organic apothecary bar and chic, modern hotel spa facility. It is a stylish contrast, with no traditional front desk and a inventive, seasonal welcome and ending beverages (I’m thinking about you AO spa winter hot chocolate!). The spa team were already smart and subtle in their plant, herbal concoctions. They remain so. Dried sakura is one of the many seasonal friendly parts of one of my jiyujizai treatments, its bulb resting in different salts from around Asia and ready to be applied to my feet. Where AO spa stumbled early on in its infancy was in the treatment room, with mediocre treatments done by new, fresh therapists. Now, thanks to time and Ms. Suzuki (team lead and therapist), Andaz’s AO spa has reached its potential as both a remarkable Tokyo city spa and an excellent place to spend the day away.
SIDENOTE: Was also a great weekend recovery from the mediocrity at Grand Hyatt Tokyo.
The Jiyujizai menu is still divided into courses versus a preset format used at many other spas. You can select two or more treatments from the list of BODY and SKIN. For BODY: exfoliate, wrap, massage, foot massage and scalp massage. And for SKIN, you can choose either facial or neck and décolleté. The spa host explained that if I wanted to fully take advantage of the ingredients, scrubbing and wrap would be best. EXTEND: the ultimate AO spa program that comes out at 4 hours, bring fresh, healthy spa cuisine and probably everything on the menu. It sounds more complicated than it actually is and becomes a customized breeze once you come often enough;).
You’re also asked to select a body oil from four different scents of the season. I chose summer, with a hint of lavender and sage. The massage style is chosen from either restore, which heightens the circulation of blood flow, or detox, as a means of purification. It’s all good, if sometimes surprising, from the grounded up herbs and salts from the apothecary to the Andaz first Natura Bisse anti-aging wrinkle reducing treatments. Impeccably supple hands focus on my problem areas and the summer lavender oil works its way down. I just adore my Andaz therapist Ms. Yamaguchi. Skilled as a facialist and masseur with the bubbly, cute Japanese young woman personality to match.
Once the whole 2 hour+ jiyujizai treatment was finished, she asked me to change back into the robe and wait on the chair (this is a great time to admire the views from each treatment room). Yamaguchi-san left for a couple of minutes and came back with a cup of organic mixed fruit cider and a bite of yogurt granola bar.
I still remember the green tea concoction I had last year during my first AO spa visit and like that it’s not, yet, another tea. A spaist can only drink so much tea before and after spaing. At the very end, she gave me a handwritten menu of the treatment and her suggested treatment for my potential next visit. And, the card just doesn’t recommend the most expensive treatment either. I think this is a very nice touch to an industry, where spa therapists are transient with very little continuity, because of the number of clients they see per week, per day. It’s something that I would like to happen more often between spaist and spa therapist. It’s about time the Tokyo spa scene took Andaz seriously because there’s a new jiyujizai sheriff in town.
Progress is never complete but definitely further along than Andaz AO spa’s opening in 2014.