GC Uncovers Some Okinawa Spa Essentials
Chatan is an incredible little island located in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. The sea is turquoise, the vibe can be described as none other than “mellow”, and the locals greet you with a slight bow and a gracious smile—they even have a popular saying: “li cha ri ba cho be”, which translates to “we have met you and now we are family.”
Prior to World War II, the island was infamous for its rice production. But today the revenue that keeps them afloat can be attributed to the U.S. military bases’ and tourists– from Asia and the United States– who flock what has become a scuba diver’s paradise in the East. Over the course of the last decade, a number of shops and restaurants have been built along the waterfront in Chatan, within walking distance of the Hilton Chatan Resort. I’d read that the American Village was the ultimate hangout spot, but somehow I couldn’t kick the feeling that this would inevitably mean hotdogs and rap music. I decided to investigate and sure enough, I did come across sections where ‘90s hip-hop was blaring— but the majority of what surrounded me were local businesses.
Industrial lighting shops, handmade leather goods, delicate, locally-crafted jewelry, killer coffee (which I am missing today) and a gorgeous little spa called Petaluna. The name comes from the English word ‘Petal’ and the Italian ‘Luna’, or “moon”. “We named it as we wanted it to be— a moon that gently illuminates customers from the sky,” the owner Taka Ito told me when I arrived.
I came upon the store after devouring fluffy pancakes at Cafe Seaside Hanon. Through a brightly-lit corridor, I spotted an arrangement of soaps— green and pink swirls made with olive oil, rice bran oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter (all of them avoid palm oil because of deforestation and the devastating ecological consequences that it so often has on the jungle). Some of the items in the Soap Bar were sprinkled with lavender, others were topped with dried flowers. They were clearly hand-poured, and were some of the first products to entice me.
The organic beauty and aroma shop also had an emerald wall of essential oils— aloe, ukon (which is wild turmeric), shimaninjin (carrot; one of Okinawa’s secrets for longevity), hechima (cucumber), goya (it looks like a cucumber but has a bitter taste and it contains two- to three- times as much Vitamin C as a lemon; it’s also a plant that is unique to Okinawa). I also came across gettou, aka ginger; in Okinawa you can identify gettou by its delicate white flowers and pink tips. It makes for a great insecticide and disinfectant. (Ito grows it in her home garden.)
There was also seaquasya, known as hirami lemon, which has growth-inhibiting effects on cancer. In Oki this is often consumed in a concentrated form that’s added to drinks and sorbet.
There were of course the classics: rosemary, lavender, eucalyptus, as well as their morning and evening relax blends (which I use daily), but the uniqueness and quality of the pressed essential oils that I’ve never heard of in the United States was what really impressed me.
Ito explained that after having allergies and asthma as a kid, she could never use cosmetics and soaps on the market. But when she began using tee tree oil, she overcame these obstacles. “I can’t live without it now. After living in Australia for 10 years [Author’s note: Australia is a mecca of the organic beauty movement,] I wanted to bring the Japanese people herbs and essential oils familiar to their daily life.”
“We have subtropical zones in Okinawa, with longer hours of sunlight, which in turn brings added pharmacological benefits to the plants.”
While some of the spa’s essential oils come from ACO (Australian Certified Organic, which is located in Sydney) the plants exclusive to Okinawa are locally manufactured.
The floral scent of tea maneuvered throughout the air as I continued to explore Petaluna’s products. I asked an employee, who handed me a sample of their face soap, if there were any additional items exclusive to Okinawa. “Kucha!” she replied, handing me a brown sealed bag. I pressed my thumbs into it, not really sure of what I was holding, and she continued, “it’s clay from the Okinawan sea.” The tiny grains cleanse pores and will leave you with a buttery and rejuvenated complexion as the clay sloughs off any dead cells or dirt. In the spirit of this gesture, here’s how to make your own DIY clay facemask, courtesy of the spa.
Okinawa Clay Face Mask
- 2-3 Tbsp Kucha clay
- Coconut, Almond, or Olive Oil
- Splash of water
- Small bowl
Add clay to a small bowl and pour in just enough water to soak the clay– go easy. Once your clay has become a thick paste, add coconut oil (or if you prefer, almond or olive oil). Apply the mask with your fingertips or a clean foundation brush, and massage upward in a circular motion. Allow the mask to sit for 5-10 minutes before rinsing with warm water.
- Avoid metal bowls or utensils while mixing the clay. The metal destroys the effectiveness by removing the charged nature of the clay.
- Avoid contact with lips and eyes. Set a timer.
- For best results, use once every two weeks.