The hands and neck often betray the age of even the most youthful face, so when SK-II scientists serendipitously noticed the soft, seemingly ageless hands of weathered sake brewers with weathered faces in 1970s Japan, they had an inkling that they might be onto something big.
As the story goes, the now-global beauty brand’s researchers then spent over a decade trying to identify and isolate the elixir of youth that comes from the sake fermentation process, and eventually they succeeded. The miraculous discovery led to the development of SK-II’s trademark skincare ingredient, whose rejuvenation properties have since become legendary among spa and beauty experts the world over.
Historically, sake has always been brewed during the winter months in Japan, because rice was generally planted in the spring, harvested in the autumn and needed an additional month to acclimate. It follows quite naturally therefore that winter is also the most fitting time for The Okura Spa to launch its Sake Kasu Spa Package, available only from now to March.
Sake kasu is actually the yeast deposits that come from the fermentation process of Japan’s popular rice wine, explains the spa manager. In addition to its exfoliating properties, the lees are rich in enzymes and contain 20 different types of amino acids.
To begin the treatment, an obligatory lavender salt foot scrub provides the perfect scene-shifter, forcing spa-goers to pause, breathe, and to take in the relaxed surroundings of The Okura Spa with its fabric covered walls, wooden floors, dim lighting and minimalist interior design – a stark contrast to the crammed inner-city views framed in the glass windows of the reception area.
A two-hour treatment then commences with a 30-minute exfoliation using a body scrub cream infused with sake kasu and natto. Sake kasu is also believed to inhibit the production of melanin and therefore promote skin radiance; the minerals and vitamins in a sake kasu body scrub also promote moisture retention, which is a boon for healthy skin. Natto, with its stringy, slimy appearance and pungent smell, might not seem the most obvious beauty accomplice, but the Japanese fermented soy beans are renowned for packing serious hydration properties.
After several long arching sweeps and swoops by professionally trained hands, most people may struggle to stay awake long enough to enjoy the barely-there abrasions of the feathery scrub cream. The 30-minute exfoliation leaves the skin smooth and silky, and perfectly primed for the main course, The Okura Spa’s signature Ta-ke Relief Massage.
Following a quick rinse – that’s if you’re able to resist lingering longer in the high-pressure, high-volume shower – you return light-footed to the slightly heated massage table. For the remaining 90 minutes, the spa therapist uses a tincture of Jojoba oil, lemon and lavender to knead the body and rid the muscles and mind of any stress you didn’t even realise you may be harbouring.
The oil massage is accentuated by the use of warmed bamboo rods which are rolled across problem areas on the body to increase blood circulation and reduce fatigue. For the uninitiated, the use of bamboo might seem superfluous when a therapist’s fingers can do such wonders without help, but the firm pressure is based on the principles of acupuncture, and the heat that radiates from the rods having being kept in steam warmers doesn’t take long to convince.
After emerging from a blissful spa stupor, re-energised and ready to go, it’s time to bear in mind that geishas are also known for partaking in a more conventional appreciation of sake – drinking it. Judging by the timeless beauty of the courtesans, who are we to disagree?
At the hotel’s Up & Beyond Bar, the Okura Sake Experience offers a tasting of three Born Brewery jummai sakes, said to be among the preferred tipples of the Japanese Imperial family. The bar also stocks a full selection of top sake brands, available on request and all to be enjoyed, of course, in the name of beauty.
(The 120-minute Sake Kasu Spa Package is available daily at The Okura Spa, The Okura Prestige Bangkok from 10am-10pm from until the end of March 2017 and is priced at 4,200 Baht ++ per person.)