My body was aching in places I never knew existed. My lower back pain and knee pain don’t seem to go away. I had been working out daily, I might have overdone it, or maybe these are all signs of aging (I’m in my late 30s). Either way, I had to listen to my body; I needed some kind of massage or therapy. Then I remembered that a year ago, I also suffered from persistent lower back pain and the only thing that helped me was getting body alignment at Karada. Thus, I went to their SM Megamall branch in search of relief.
Author’s Note: Karada Factory in SM Megamall is temporarily closed due to the quarantine caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The review is based on the author’s last Karada visit late last year. This is not a sponsored post.
Karada offers Japanese body therapy founded by a man named, Koyasu Yuki. He had a car accident and was rehabilitated by chiropractic treatment. This has inspired him to study the concepts of chiro and massage, which eventually led to the birth of his business called, Karada Factory. From starting up a store in Yokahama, there are now over 300 Karada branches in Japan, as well as franchises in other countries, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. As of this writing, there are 18 Karada branches in the Philippines mostly can be found inside the malls.
Chiropractic was founded by D. D. Palmer in the 1890s and it deals with the disorders of the locomotor or musculoskeletal system (skeleton, muscles, cartilage, joints, tendons, and connective tissues). It is considered alternative medicine that involves spinal manipulation therapy (SMT), and manipulations of other joints and soft tissues. Though chiropractors are usually called chiro doctors, they are not medical doctors.
Among the services that Karada offers are AP (atlas and pelvis) Balance, Body Treatment, Foot Treatment, and combination treatments. You have the option to get your treatment from a local or a Japanese therapist, the latter being more costly. I have never tried a Japanese therapist, I’m not sure how they compare with their local counterparts. However, I do find that the therapists who did my treatment knew what they were doing. More on that later.
Here are their list of services with the corresponding descriptions and rates. Note that prices may change without prior notice.
Karada also offers products to help improve health and to correct body posture, such as Pelvic support leggings, Posture correction shirt, Pro skeletal frame correction pillow, Nightwear pelvic support, Pillowcase/cool, Izumio water (hydrogenated water), Hita water (a.k.a. the “miracle water” with a high volume of alkaline), Back stretcher, Karada balance belt, and Mini stretcher roller.
My Karada Experience
The SM Megamall branch has a slightly bigger space than the first Karada that I tried in Glorietta. I chose the 60-minute AP Balance and Body Treatment with a local therapist.
They made me change into a pair of shirt and pants and slippers that are too big for my frame. I placed my belongings inside a big plastic basket, which they put under the bed where I had my treatment.
A female therapist attended to me and we started with a brief assessment. She checked my posture and asked for any specific concerns that I may have. I shared that for days, I had been suffering from lower back pain.
As I lay down on the bed she proceeded with the pelvic test. She lifted my legs at 90 degrees, cupped my ankles with her fingers, and asked me if there is anything that I could observe. I looked and realized that the level of her fingers that were cupping my ankles was uneven. She explained that this is due to a misalignment in my pelvic bones, thereby making one of my legs shorter than the other. This is usually caused by incorrect posture and standing on one leg for longer periods.
The therapist said that the first thing she noticed when I came in was that I was slouching. This has been my life-long dilemma, my posture is just terrible even as a little kid. I remember when I joined my first Santa Cruzan and my aunt kept barking from a distance that I straighten my back. To be honest, I just don’t know how to maintain a correct posture when every time I try to straighten my back it hurts. Also, I’m usually unaware that I’m slouching until somebody mentions it.
She then proceeded to give me the AP Balance treatment. Unlike my first Karada experience where my body was all stiff, I tried my best to relax. I heard some cracking sounds and saw my body being bent and stretched in different directions. It was a little bit nerve-wracking just because I am not used to hearing my body make that sound, especially during the neck adjustment. It did hurt especially during the stretching part, but it was manageable.
Next, she led me to a private room with a mechanical bed where she continued some more adjustments to my body. After that, she did the pelvic test again and this time, her fingers that encircled my ankles were even. Apparently, this indicated that my pelvic has been re-aligned. She advised that I should be conscious of how I stand and sit, to always make sure that my posture is correct, and as much as possible, avoid putting all of my weight on one leg.
We returned to the common area where she endorsed me to a male therapist who performed the dry massage. This is the part of the whole treatment that I found to be extremely painful. The therapist kneaded and pressed on some points in my body in an effort to soften the knots in my muscles. It was particularly bad in my back area where everywhere he pressed made me want to scream in pain. On how I was able to withstand that 30-minute of torture is beyond me, but it’s something that I never want to subject myself again, even when it’s supposed to help in releasing muscle tension.
After the treatment, my entire body was sore, but at the same time, there’s been a noticeable sense of relief especially in my lower back. Just as I came in, they offered me a small cup of warm water to drink. They told me that body soreness is normal and that I should feel better after 3 to 5 days.
Everyday I travel for almost an hour to get to work carrying the company issued laptop that is heavier than a newborn baby. I also sleep on my stomach, often crosses my legs when sitting, and has a job that requires me to sit in front of the computer at least 8 hours a day. In short, my body pains are of my own doing. It doesn’t help that my posture has been bad since time immemorial. I find that sometimes, getting a massage doesn’t cut it anymore in relieving body aches. Thus, I have always wanted to try chiropractic treatment, however, they are too damn expensive; usually, they go between 3,000 to 5,000 pesos per session.
Thankfully, there is a place like Karada that incorporates the concept of chiropractic into their treatments. I like having a chance to experience chiro within my budget.
However, let me clarify that although they use the concept of chiro, Karada is different from a chiro clinic where treatments can be more extensive to treat more serious conditions. In fact, when I told them that I’ve been having this persistent pain in my left knee, they told me right off the bat that this is not something that they can handle. So it’s best to just look at Karada the way we do at any other massage salons; a good alternative for body wellness.
And here’s the best thing that happened months after this treatment. My right foot used to be riddled with calluses. They were painful and I didn’t know why I had them all on that one foot while my left foot was okay. I tried everything to get rid of them including getting a foot spa/scrub frequently. But the calluses always came back, it was frustrating. I’ve had the for over a year, that’s how long I’d been dealing with it. It was only a few months after this Karada treatment when the calluses started to disappear. I realized that they might have been caused by the misalignment with my pelvic. My right foot had been carrying most of my weight. Of course, this is just an assumption but I think Karada fixed more than my lower back pain.
Other important information
The following shows some helpful information regarding Karada. Note that the information below are based from Karada’s website.
How old a person need to be to get a Karada treatment?
You have to be at least 12 years old.
What are the contraindications?
If you have the following conditions, you cannot undergo a Karada treatment:
- 1-3 months pregnant
- grave illness (e.g. cancer)
- serious injury
- had undergone surgeries
Note: If you have hypertension or diabetes, you may be allowed to take a treatment as long as you have medications with you.
What are the health benefits of taking a Karada treatment?
According to Karada, there are several ways their treatments can help you such as stress, hormonal, sleep, and physical pain management, improvement of posture and digestion, among others.
What activities should be avoided after the treatment?
Apart from not drinking drinks that are too cold or hot, they recommend not drinking alcohol and not taking hot showers right after the therapy. They also advise avoiding engaging in strenuous activities to allow the body to recover.
We all know the story of the milk bath as legendary as the Egyptian queen associated with it. They say that Cleopatra used to bathe in donkey’s milk to help preserve her beauty and youthful appearance. The reason for this is that milk has proteins that could soften the skin and lactic acid that helps in exfoliation. This had me curious for quite a long time, wondering what it feels like to indulge in a ritual fit for royalty. Last year, I found the perfect occasion (my birthday) to give it a try and the place that offers this one of a kind experience, I’M Onsen Spa at I’M Hotel.
Authors Note: I’M Onsen is temporarily closed due to the community quarantine caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not a sponsored post.
I’M Hotel, a luxury hotel in Makati brings the Japanese sento culture to the Philippines via the I’M Onsen Spa. It occupies 6 floors inside the hotel, each floor dedicated to a specific facility, such as massage/treatment area, The Common Good buffet restaurant, onsen pool, relaxation lounges, executive and VIP rooms. All guests who are checked-in in the hotel are automatically given access to all of these areas, however, treatments should be availed separately. I’M Onsen is also open to non-hotel guests, but booking ahead of time is required.
Sento or public bathhouse has been part of the Japanese culture since 712. The country being a stratovolcanic archipelago is blessed with natural hot springs (onsen). The Japanese believe in the healing properties of onsen to alleviate symptoms of neuralgia (chronic pain due to damaged nerve), muscle pain, rheumatism, and even skin conditions like dermatosis. Likewise, it says to help relieve fatigue and stress as well as maintain beautiful skin.
The spa offers an array of treatments that complement the benefits of onsen. You can avail of their single treatments or combine a few for a better experience. The selection is so extensive, it can get overwhelming. If you are not sure which treatments to choose from, check out their pre-set packages. You have the option to add the buffet to your booking or not. Note that rates may change from the time of writing.
Signature Onsen Journey offers three different spa onsen programs ideal to those who are suffering from insomnia, tiredness or fatigue, and jet lag.
Rates: Php 3,600 – 4,050
Couples Delight as the name implies is perfect for couples. You will be given a private room where you can enjoy services like a 60-minute massage, facial, body scrub, and eye care treatment.
Rates: Php 7,000 – 8,000
Spa Executive Choice is tailored for a group of at least 4 people. Depending on your chosen package, treatments may include foot reflexology, aromassage, facial, and head massage.
Rates: Php 9,900 – 13,000
Sense of Place features Filipino old healing techniques. Services offered include Filipino hilot, foot therapy, and ventosa massage.
Rates: Php 1,550 – 2,550
Spa Party Package is perfect for a group of people who want to celebrate an occasion in style, like a bridal shower, birthday party, or just simple group bonding.
Therapeutic Touch covers their wellness massage selections such as Jet lag recovery massage, Healing stone therapy, I’M Onsen Spa Signature Massage, Shiatsu, Aromassage, and Lymphatic Drainage Massage.
Rates: Php 1,550 – 2,250
Fountain of Youth is their selection of facial treatments such as I’m Onsen Spa signature facial, Ageless facial therapy, Brightening facial, and Gentlemen’s tonic.
Rates: Php 2,000 – 2,900
Body Silk is what you choose if you want to try their body scrub treatments. They use exotic flower scrubs and spices to help detoxify the body and rejuvenate the skin.
Rates: Php 1,650 – 2,050
Private bath – Tea bath, flower bath, or milk bath, choose from any of these for the ultimate indulgence.
Asia’s best spa express features Asian techniques that are popular in Asia, such as Japanese facial massage, Xiamen foot reflexology, Korean foot spa, Indian head and shoulder, and Eyecare with a scalp massage.
Rates: Php 950 – 1,250
I booked online and customized the package that I wanted to avail of. I chose the I’M Onsen Spa signature massage with buffet (Php 1,950) and the luxurious milk bath (Php 700). I’m not sure but it seems like choosing a private bath will automatically require a room upgrade to the executive suite (Php 400). The total amount I paid is Php 3,050. I was scheduled in the afternoon, they advised me to arrive at least 1 hour before my appointment so the staff can prepare for my treatment and I have time to enjoy the onsen facilities.
Just as advised, I came in early. In the reception, I signed a form in which I specified which part of my body do I want the massage therapist to focus on. I was also given a paper bracelet that would give me access to the spa. I went first to the onsen area. They provided me with a locker key, a towel, and a yukata (Japanese robe) to change into.
I started with the sauna, stayed there for 15 minutes, after which, I rinsed my body and went to the onsen pool next. There were no other guests, probably because it was the early afternoon on a Monday.
The onsen pool may only be used before the treatment, but you can use the steam and sauna before or even after treatment. If you come in late, it will reduce the time of your treatment and you will still be charged in full.
30 minutes before my scheduled massage treatment, I went up to the lounge area to wait for my therapist. Just as the onsen area, the place was empty. I helped myself to a cup of ginger tea and sat on one of the lounge chairs. Before long, a therapist came over to fetch me. Together we took the lift to the treatment area.
By this time, it made me feel like I had reserved the entire onsen spa to myself for my birthday as I found no other guests even in the massage area. The therapist led me to a room and told me that she would leave me for 20 minutes so I could take a bath. I almost told her that I had already bathed in the onsen area when I remembered that I was supposed to experience the milk bath.
I went into the bathroom and saw a huge wooden bathtub filled with milky water. At that moment I seemed to have forgotten I am a woman in her late 30s because it had me all excited. I stripped down as soon as the therapist left and gently jumped went into the tub. The water was cool and smelled of milk. I imagined that a milk bath would be creamy, but then for that to happen they’ll have to use pure milk, no water. If it’s so it would cost more than 700 pesos for sure. Anyway, I was not complaining, in fact, I was ecstatic. This has got to be the most indulgent bath I’ve had to date and it felt so amazing.
And just like that, my 20-minute bath time was over. The therapist returned and led me to a different room for a massage. It is a private room with its own sink and faucet.
In 2016, Cai and I had a staycation at I’M Hotel and back then, the onsen was still under construction, however, we did get to try the massage treatment and I remember it being among the best ones that I have ever had.
3 years later, here I was, getting a massage for the second time and just like before, it doesn’t disappoint. It was 60 minutes of pure bliss, each stroke brought relief to my tired body. By the time it was over, I was in a complete state of relaxation.
What best way to end this small retreat but with a feast. I went to The Common Good, their buffet restaurant, and waited until 4:00 p.m. for the buffet to open. For like 30 minutes, I had the buffet all to myself that I couldn’t help but ask the staff how come there were no other people around. They said that people usually don’t start coming in until 5:00 p.m.
I had a blast eating to my heart’s content. I was particularly taken by the cheeses, they were marvelous, also the sushis, I’ve gobbled as much as I could. I think I might have overdone it because, by the time I left the restaurant, I was bursting through my pants.
All in all, I had a grand time at I’M Onsen Spa. Every penny I spent was worth it, definitely an amazing way to celebrate my birthday.
- Come to the spa at least 1 hour early so you have time to enjoy the onsen facilities before your treatment. You will still be charged in full whether you’ve used up all your time or not, so don’t be late.
- Buffet doesn’t start until 4:00 p.m., it’s best to book your spa day in the afternoon. The last call is at 9:30 p.m. and the buffet closes down at 10:00 p.m.
- Get a reservation. I have a friend who said that he walked in one time but there was no slot available so to ensure you will be accommodated, call or book your reservation online.
I’m Onsen Spa
7852 Makati Avenue
UG Floor I’M Hotel
Poblacion, Makati, 1210 Metro Manila
Contact no: (02) 755 7877
Business Hours: Mon – Thu: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. / Fri – Sun: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.