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Bright Lights, Soothing Cities

By: Bryan Durocher
Posted: June 11, 2008, from the October 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Oriental Harmony (110 minutes, $546) involves a foot ritual, full-body exfoliation and a special four-handed massage featuring signature oil. Clients can select from an array of indigenous treatments that are exclusive to the Tokyo location, such as the Absolute Pearl (80 minutes, $251) illuminating therapy that brightens and softens the skin, or the Adzuki Ritual (110 minutes, $364), which conditions the skin with a body scrub of adzuki beans, sesame seeds and sea salt, followed by a moisturizing oil treatment.

Internal and external balance

Following in the footsteps of its Japanese neighbors, Mandara Spa at JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai is located in the Nanjing district—the center of Chinese commerce. In this new resort in the Tomorrow Square building, the hotel spirals into the sky with incredible 56th-floor penthouse views. As Mandara’s flagship location, it is the first of three spas opening in China. Designed in keeping with the local flavor and tradition of old Shanghai, the decor blends with nearby colonial concessions. Private showers, raw-wood floors and rough-hewn stone accents offer an escape to busy clients.

Treatments at Mandara Spa are based on a combination of European and Asian philosophies, and feature ingredients such as rice, Chinese spices and jasmine. A single therapist provides all of the client’s services during their visit in order to ensure a continuous flow of experience. At the conclusion of the appointment, a local tea is served. Clients also can use the hotel’s fitness facilities during their spa time as an added benefit of the Mandara experience.

The Chinese culture is moving readily toward a spa lifestyle and taking advantage of treatments that balance inner and outer health. Local residents have a strong desire for status, as well as a longing to belong to an exclusive group. The spa’s clientele is an equal balance of hotel guests and local residents, and the facility’s marketing is targeted heavily to the surrounding community. With the unpredictable influx of foreign and local business professionals, the spa is seeing the rewards of a loyal following.

All the difference

One of the distinct benefits at these spas is the ongoing therapist training. Before opening, the initial team at the Mandarin Oriental and Mandara Spa underwent more than three months of customer service and treatment training in order to consistently deliver the quality for which these facilities are renowned. All therapists hold internationally recognized licenses, and the professionals from Japan and China attend school for more than two years to acquire accreditation. The teams also are entirely female because the field draws primarily women, and both female and male clients feel most comfortable with a female therapist. This unique composition is found at all three locations researched for this article.