Ladies, this post is for you in honour of our special day – International Women’s Day – which was started in the US in 1909 to commemorate women’s rights movements. In my native Russia, it is a national holiday and every woman is made to feel special with gifts of flowers, cards, congratulatory greetings, speeches on TV, luxurious dinners and so on. Womanhood is a big word with a lot of dignity and responsibility. But relax, this post is not about what it means to be a woman in this world. Rather, it’s about where to go and what to do if you want to pamper yourself on a special occasion, be it on International Women’s Day, your birthday or any other special day in your life (which can be any day indeed!).
So ladies, here are our Top 5 ways to spoil yourself in Sapporo:
1. Ladies-Only SPA in Downtown Susukino
If you love Japanese onsens and hot-room saunas, Honoka Super Sento is an absolute gem. To learn more about Super Sentos read this post:
This international chain is a longtime favorite among locals, with numerous locations around Hokkaido, and there is even one located in downtown Sapporo that is “Ladies-Only” (Tanuki Koji 3, Susukino). Honoka’s claim-to-fame are their sauna rooms, called gambanyoku, which are set to various temperatures and styles such as cypress, coal and Himalayan pink salt saunas. There is also an oxygen room, an infrared sauna, various baths and other health & beauty treatments: for example, salt-scrub massages for skin exfoliation. The on-site restaurant serves typical (and delicious) Japanese cuisine, has spacious relaxation rooms and even a manga library, all conspiring to keep you there way longer than you intended. Amazingly, Honoka is open 24hrs/day, making it a shoestring budget option for spending the night downtown in a pinch.
2. Treat yourself to a Michelin-Star Rated Restaurant
Japan has the most Michelin-Star restaurants in the world, a clear validation of this gourmand’s paradise and for many visitors, their top food destination worldwide. Even if you’re not a self-proclaimed foodie, I suggest a gourmet splurge at a Michelin-Star restaurant on your special day.
Hokkaido has 40% of Japan’s agricultural land, making our northern island the only place in the country that can boast food self-sufficiency. To truly appreciate the art of high cuisine and the spirit of shokunin – craftsmen – you must go to a special place to prepare yourself for a one-of-a-kind experience. Choose a seat at the counter just in front of the chef and be amazed at the mastery of food preparation. It’s a true food-art performance. Hokkaido Michelin Guide is a good resource, or ask your hotel concierge for their recommendations. Michelin-Star restaurants start from roughly 3,000-5,000 yen for lunch, and can reach 20,000+ yen for dinner per person.
The best part for me is that you can find Michelin rated restaurants in random and otherwise forgotten corners of Hokkaido. Here are my personal favs:
3. Japanese Gel Nails
Have you ever seen Japanese gel nail art? In Japan, they call themselves nailists, but what they create are truly pieces of art! Patient, committed and attentive to details, Japanese nail artists have achieved an incredibly high level of mastery over the tiny canvases on which they create their masterpieces. When I feel like painting the world in new colors, I go no further than my nailist. The design and creation of gel nails is a wonderful collaboration between the artist and client, and always leaves me uplifted and inspired. If in a rush, you don’t have to create your own designs from scratch as the nailist already has plenty of templates for you to choose from. Just flip through their catalogues, filled with countless patterns, colors and styles. My favorite studio is Riva Couture, owned and operated by the incredible Rie Imai. Look her up on Instagram (#rivecouture) and you will understand why she’s been invited to show her talents in Sapporo, Seoul & New York.
Japanese shiatsu massage (lit. finger pressure) is based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. Not only fingers are applied, but also palms, elbows and feet; stretching, twisting and bending the body to deliver ultimate results and relaxation. Whenever I feel sore after snowboarding, trekking with a heavy backpack, or a stressful week in the city, I entrust my body to a shiatsu masseuse’s hands, working her magic to restore much needed health and vitality.
If you are looking for a budget massage option and don’t mind a shared room, I suggest Riracle (りらくる). You will find their salons, with the recognizable yellow signboards, in many locations throughout Sapporo and Japan. The courses start from 3,000 yen for 1 hour – dirt cheap for Japan. Check out their website for more information and locations: https://riracle.com/
For a private massage I recommend Plumeria Garden SPA – a small massage salon in the Odori area with only female masseuses on staff. They specialise in aroma oil and Thai massages, as well as traditional shiatsu, head & foot reflexology. The atmosphere of the salon is very pleasant and guests are welcomed with a cup of herbal tea. Thai style massages are 4,100 yen for the 1 hour session. You can even make reservations online via their website: https://www.plumeriagardenspa.com/
Of course there are many more options: luxurious packages with deep sea minerals and placenta, treatments with LED lamps to improve the lymphatic flow, fight cellulite or improve digestion, and more. My personal favorite is Partir, another tiny establishment near Nishi 11-chome subway station. I go there for hair treatments, but they also have facials and body procedures with the same approach of quality and efficiency. If you are ready to spend 10,000+ yen on their luxury treatments, you will not be disappointed in the results. You’ll also learn firsthand about the secrets of the Japanese beauty industry: http://partir-hair.net/esthe.html#esthe-pr
5. Personalized Cosmetics
We all know that the “Made in Japan” label often means the best quality products, so true for Japanese cosmetics as well. Famous all over the world, with millions of devoted customers, Japanese cosmetic brands base their production on scientific research and innovation. When shopping for cosmetics in Japan, the main question is how to choose among the infinite variety of products and brands?! If you want to experience something different than just picking bottles off store shelves hoping they will work for your skin type, I recommend experimenting with the latest achievements in the field of skin research. Head to a downtown department store or boutique cosmetic shop, aim for the counters with the strangest looking apparatuses such as at SK II, or Pola Apex, then get your skin analyzed by a machine. The machine takes a close-up picture of your skin, then reads its qualities such as texture, radiance, spots, firmness and wrinkles. Afterwards, it provides a graph with the results, showing which issues need special attention. The consultant can then recommend the products that will work best for your skin. One of my favorites is Pola Apex, among the oldest of cosmetic companies in Japan with numerous industry awards for outstanding achievements in the beauty industry. About 300 scientists work on the creation of each new product (and I’m not even joking). Apex is their latest line, focused on personalized skin analysis. You can visit their Aurora Town branch in Sapporo’s Chikagai underground walkway. SK II is another luxury brand with a similar approach. Skin consultations can be done at their Daimaru Department Store location. Best of all, this scientific approach to personalized skin care is completely free of charge!
So what are you waiting for! Go spoil yourself in Sapporo, be it on a special occasion or just a rainy day like today. And remember, we don’t need to justify self-love and care, neither do we need to feel guilty for splurging on our wellbeing. There is no other time than now!
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