[attach]5556[/attach]While returning to Japan in 2007 for martial arts training, Ryusuke Juge noticed how popular Ganbanyoku rock bathing had become.
“I started investigating, searching and reading on the Internet and also I went everywhere,” he says. “I tried every one of these places I could find from Kyushu to Tokyo.”
Teaming up with his best friend’s wife, Norma Percy, they decided to bring the spa treatment, which consists of lying on heated stone beds, to Toronto and opened Iyashi Bedrock Spa in 2008.
“We are the first to bring this to North America and it’s a huge rage in Japan,” Percy says. “We have a traditional suite, which has 17 beds and that’s ladies only … and we have a deluxe suite where the men can go if they come by themselves or couples or families.”
Although they knew they wanted a central location, since their suites would be built with imported black silica stones, she says they spent a long time searching for the right property before securing a spot on Yonge Street near Glencairn Avenue.
“We wanted to find a good location because once we put the stones in, we’re not moving,” she says. “It’s only found in one mountain in Japan … They call it the phantom ore in Japan because it’s so scarce and has so many wonderful characteristics.”
Juge, who also designed the reception desk, says these benefits include detoxification, weight loss and boosting the immune system. They chose the name Iyashi, which means cure, because they were looking for a Japanese name that was health related and encompassed what they offer.
In addition to rock bathing sessions, they also offer hot yin yoga, hot stone massages and host private events like birthday parties and bridal showers.
Since opening, Percy says she has enjoyed getting to know the regulars, some of whom have been in between 80 and 90 times and enjoys being told they’ve been looking forward to coming in all week.
“It’s almost like the show Cheers,” she says. “You get to know the same people so it’s a real friendly atmosphere. It feels really invigorating for us because as the owners we want people to enjoy it and it feels good to be able to help people so it’s a really good feeling.”
Their goal is for people to experience an alternative way to detoxify that’s also relaxing in an authentic Japanese Ganbanyoku setting. A major job perk, they say, is being able to enjoy their facilities.
“When we have time, we try to go in,” Juge says.
“Every night that I’m working here I’ll go in even if it’s just for a couple minutes just to lie down,” Percy adds.