Published on November 4, 2007
First there is the sound of bamboo sticks being knocked against each other. That's the signal that you're about to become a drum.
Perhaps not exactly what you expected when you arrived at the Conrad Bangkok, but for the next two weeks the massage techniques is an intriguing lure at the hotel's Season Spa.
With soft taps of the bamboo stems, the therapist works slowly up your left side from the sole of your foot to your calf, hips, back and shoulder, then down the right side from shoulder to foot. This is followed by gentle kneading of the entire body, and finally another rapping tour with the bamboo, this time a little faster.
"The massage from the left to the right side of the body follows the movement of your chi," says Masako Kashiwagi, 41, referring to the natural energy that's similarly manipulated in acupuncture and tai chi.
Kashiwagi and Eriko Arai are guest therapists from Tokyo currently offering the bamboo massage at the Conrad.
They use aged, dried bamboo stems to tap all the major muscle groups to relieve tension and release blocked energy along the meridian lines. The rhythmic sound created is said to ensure a connection between body, mind and spirit.
"Bamboo is part of our life," says Kashiwagi, who's been with the Conrad Tokyo since it opened two years ago, as has Arai.
"Bamboo signifies long life, friendship, peace and harmony, and it's even used as a good-luck charm. There's also a legend in Japan about a man who dreams of a beautiful princess sleeping in a bamboo grove. He wakes up and goes to peer inside the bamboo, and is delighted to discover the princess.
"In Japanese gardens we enjoy the sounds that bamboo makes in the fountains as the shoots move about. We use the stems for foot massage and an over-the-shoulder self-massage."
Kashiwagi graduated from the Hawaii Massage Academy and was licensed to practise in that state in 2003. She learned the bamboo massage technique from a consultant in Singapore.
Unlike other kinds of wood, bamboo trunks are hollow and famously flexible, making them ideal for massage, particularly considering the different sounds they make when they strike different areas of the body.
Kashiwagi describes it as a "hard" noise when the stem finds muscle tension and a"watery" sound where the flesh is supple.
She and Arai - who point out that the girth of the bamboo stems does matter -recommend combining the treatment with their Energy and Essence massages.
In the former, the therapist exerts deep and firm pressure along the energy lines to contract the muscles, and then shakes the spine, hands and legs to release tension and encourage natural healing to begin.
The Essence, or aromatic, massage employs pure essential oil blends of your choice and gentle rubs that soothe body and mind.
Afterward you can enjoy a cup of macha tea and Japanese confections. "After a massage the blood circulation is stimulated, so you should drink a lot of water," adds Arai.
All three massages and a tea ceremony are combined in the hotel's Mizuki Spa Ritual, which is among the most popular packages at the Conrad Tokyo.
It starts with a Hinoki Bath, which utilises the fragrance of cypress - hinoki in Japanese - and usually the wood itself, which is used to make the bathtub. The Conrad Bangkok doesn't have the hinoki tub, but globes of hinoki float in the water, providing the scent.
The Mizuki Spa Ritual is on offer until November 18. Call (02) 690 9355.