CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH FORTE AND MARIE LEWIS
We were recently invited to enjoy complimentary massages at ChuChu Hawaiian Massage in partnership with Plat Okinawa. Sarah and Marie enjoyed the massages, but the opinions are all ours.
In a word association game, I’m sure “Massage” and “Relax” would often go together, but unless you are Hawaiian, I bet you wouldn’t think of the word, “Lomilomi.” Maybe you should; in Hawaiian “Lomi” or “Lomilomi” mean to rub, press, squeeze, massage, to work in and out. This type of massage originated in Hawaii but has made its way here to Okinawa.
Marie and Sarah were invited as representatives of Okinawa Hai to tell you about the lomilomi massages offered at Hawaiian Healing CHU CHU (Chu means beauty.)
First off, from Marie:
I had good reason to look forward to a massage at Chu Chu. You see, after my first week on the island, I felt confident enough to venture off base for a four mile run, sans map. My four-miler turned into a ten mile trek when I got lost and found myself at Kadena Gate 2. (I was trying to get back to the Main Gate at Foster…whoopsie!) My feet were literally aching for some TLC.
First impression of Chu Chu: small but inviting, with water cascading behind a glass fixture in the front window. The staff was extremely friendly and spoke enough English to explain to me what kind of massage I was getting (30 minute Lomi Lomi massage.) My massage therapist, Sanae, led me into a small room with soft music playing to a soundtrack of waves crashing on the ocean. Everything looked clean and presentable. I sat down on a stool and Sanae placed my bare feet into a hot (but not scalding) foot soak…ahhh…just what I needed after that run. After a few minutes she lifted one foot and gave it a deep rub with her hands. It felt wonderful. She repeated this with my other foot.
Next, Sanae showed me an array of aromatic oils and let me smell each to choose one for my massage. I chose the “Relax” oil for stress relief. Just the first scent of it had me imagining a long nap in the shade on the beach. There were other oils including some for energy, detoxification, and purification. Sanae asked me which areas of my body felt the most achy (in my case, my upper back and feet.) She would pay special attention to these areas.
After selecting my oil, Sanae gave me a disposable pair of underwear and showed me a basket to put my clothes in. I had a few minutes to undress and lay down (there is a towel to cover yourself) and she knocked before coming back in. The next 30 minutes were extremely relaxing. She worked her way from my neck and shoulders to my arms, back, legs, and feet. The oil felt smooth on my skin and not hot or cold to the touch. The scent released slowly into the room, so it wasn’t overpowering. I felt Sanae using her forearms and elbows to knead out the kinks in my back. Don’t be afraid to let your therapist know if you want more or less pressure. Sanae asked me early on if the pressure was too much, but I like a lot of it.
I was relaxed enough to doze off but awake enough to enjoy the feeling of my muscles being slowly stretched out. The only drawback was perhaps the location of the spa inside American Village; I was able to hear laughter and bits of conversations from people passing by outside. This was only a minor con for me, but if you like it dead quiet you may be more bothered by the intermittent noise.
After my massage, Sanae left me with a hot towel to rub off the oils before dressing. I met her in the front room where I was shown an assortment of teas (hot or cold) to drink to complement the massage. There were about six varieties from which to choose, ranging from relaxing to energizing. I chose the one recommended for detoxification. I followed up the tea with water (you should drink plenty of water before and after a massage to minimize soreness.)
Lastly, Sanae explained to me where my body felt tightest (my back and shoulders) and demonstrated for me how best to stretch out those problem areas. She asked me if I spent a lot of time typing on the computer. Good guess…most of it spent here on Okinawa-Hai!
And here is Sarah’s take:
The first part of my experience was very similar to Marie’s: Foot soak, rub, explanation of the massage, a chance to change and lie on the table; but the actual massage was a new experience. I had the Raindrop massage given by Itzumi. She started very slowly and gently, with me lying on my back while she rubbed my feet. At times she held still, held my feet and stretched my legs. Earlier she had told me that this part was to help my internal energy.
Then I was asked to roll over onto my stomach and the “raindrop” part of my massage began. During this portion, drops of essential oil were dripped onto my spine and then very gently rubbed into my back. This was repeated 10 different times with 10 different oils. I could smell the oils and each was slightly different. Later I sneaked a peek, and the oils were very earthy and reminded me of a spice cabinet: oregano, thyme, peppermint, basil…
After the raindrop portion, the massage became a little more vigorous. Itzumi concentrated on my upper back and shoulders, both while I laid on my back and later on my stomach. During this time everything from my neck, arms, fingers, and even lower-lower back (if you catch my drift) got some lomi lomi. When the massage was nearly over she placed a warm, moist towel on my back and I was left to relax for a while before the lights came back on and I drifted back to reality.
After dressing, I was offered tea in the waiting area and Itzumi explained that she felt some tightness and tenderness in my upper back and right shoulder. She is not the first masseuse to tell me that they feel the same knot – I guess that means I should get more massages – right?!?!
I don’t get massages regularly, but I’d have to say this was the most gentle of all the professional massages I have had. If the idea of a “deep tissue” massage makes you cringe, this may be the perfect massage for you. On the other hand, it sounds like the regular Lomi Lomi may be better if you’d prefer more pressure.
The price is set according to the type of massage and the length. Prices for the Lomi Lomi massage like Marie’s range from 3,300¥ for 30 minutes to 10,000¥ for 120 minutes. The price of the Raindrop massage that Sarah had ranges from 6,000¥ for 40 minutes to 17,000¥ for 120 minutes. They also offer several other options including a Chair Lomi, which is a seated massage that concentrates on the neck, shoulders and arms (2,000 ¥ for 20 mins).
Hawaiian Healing CHU CHU offers one more unique item that is not massage related. There is a large wall of stones that can be strung on a bracelet. Each stone has different meanings and are associated with different wishes, like a good luck charm. There are stones for health, healing, fertility, safety and even good luck on a test. This idea is very Asian and would definitely make a unique gift!
Directions: Hawaiian Healing CHU CHU opened about two years ago on the second floor of Mihama Carnival Park (that is the building at the base of American Village’s famous Ferris wheel).
Address: #217 Mihama Carnival park 2F 15-69 Mihama Chatan Town, Okinawa.
Hours: 11:00-21:00; Closed on Tuesdays.
Phone: 098-989-6604; Appointments are not necessary but definitely recommended. You may have to wait if you do not book ahead of time.