Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Turning Japanese

I booked myself in for a bath and shiatsu massage today at Onsen Ma after Mr Rosanna gave me a gift voucher for Mother's Day.  It's located in one of Melbourne's first happening laneways - Meyers Place - in between The Waiters Club, soul food restaurant Mr Big Stuff and Argentinian Bar San Telmo and opposite Loop.  You go up the stairs and almost immediately you're in a dimly lit zen-like space where you take off your shoes and put Japanese slippers on.

Images above via Onsen Ma
I was running late for my 1 hour bath - I was given a tub with towels and a locker key to the change room where you undress before going into the segregated bathing area for women, which includes showers, a big heated Japanese bath and adjoining sauna.  If you are self-conscious about nude public bathing, you can also book a private bath however this is more expensive.  There were a couple of other women there first thing this morning and I have to say, it is a very civilised and relaxing way to start the day.  Everything is provided at Onsen Ma - towels, lockers, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner and there's a dressing area in the change room where combs, grooming products and hair dryers are provided.
Image via Mr Big Stuff
Image via San Telmo
The general rule is to shower first and rinse off before moving into the bath where there are steps to sit on inside which leave you neck-high in hot water.  I almost fell asleep right there and then but eventually moved into the sauna, which was really hot!  I had another quick shower after emerging from the sauna before getting ready for my shiatsu massage.  If you haven't brought loose comfortable clothing with you, Onsen Ma also provide a Japanese wrap top and pants to wear for your shiatsu treatment.
Image via Onsen Ma
My massage was with Belinda, who wasn't Japanese, but still a great masseuse.  It's also a nice feeling to be clothed during the massage given how cold it is at the moment, which is what I like about shiatsu in general.  If you're after a completely silent and tranquil place to go for a shiatsu, this isn't it.  While it's subdued and low key, the rooms are not sealed off so you do hear people in the male and female bathing areas and I'm not sure what was going on at Mr Big Stuff downstairs, but they had the rap music on pretty high, not enough to disturb me too much but it's audible when you're lying down.
Image via Kuni's Melbourne
Given I ran on concrete at Run Melbourne on Sunday, which I'm not used to, my hips and neck were still a bit tender so having a hot bath, followed by a massage, was pretty heavenly!  I met Mr R for a quick Japanese lunch afterwards across the road at Takumi on Bourke Street, which was OK - we didn't realise they specialise in wagyu beef.  I am still yet to visit YU.U on Flinders Lane which is hard to find - my usual Japanese go to places in the city have been the more authentic Yamato in Corrs Lane near Chinatown and stalwart Kuni's in Little Bourke Street - both of which have been there a long time.  My very first ever Japanese restaurant experience was Kenzan in Collins Place where I was taken for my 18th birthday by a favourite Aunt and Uncle and I've previously taken Mr R to the very hip Izakaya Den off Russell Street.
Coffees at Ombra Bar
Strangely enough, Mr R and I felt like having a coffee after our Japanese lunch boxes so dropped into the very stylish, authentically Italian Ombra Bar on Bourke Street, near Self Preservation (which we've previously been to), for coffees and salted caramel profiteroles - yum!  I also loved Ombra's use of beautiful recycled white and blue Italian glass jars from Bologna as their sugar bowls (and indeed their clever storage space of food and drink in the whole place).  Their pizzas and other baked delights in the front counter window looked spectacular.
Salted caramel profiteroles - Ombra Bar

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