Yoko Kitahara: Healing Japanese Shiatsu Therapy on the Coast of the Mediterranean Sea

Imagine a tranquil Japanese haven in the Middle East, a space that heals through all five senses. While it blends elements from different cultures, every small detail is carefully thought of, all coming together in perfect symmetry. In Old Yafo, Tel Aviv, the Japanese spa Yoko Kitahara invites its guests to feel healed and renewed by Japanese traditions of therapy, hospitality and design.

Words: Meri Frig

  Image: author's own

Image: author's own

When you enter the Yoko Kitahara spa in the Old Yafo, Tel Aviv, you enter a completely unique space. While the Japanese culture and style predominate, the space also includes elements from the local culture as well as others: yet everything is perfectly thought through, and comes together in perfect symmetry.

  Image: author's own

Image: author's own

  Image: author's own

Image: author's own

Overlooking the Mediterranean sea, visitors of the spa are treated through all the five senses. Everything is carefully thought of: the physical space, the sounds, smells. The Japanese concept of omotenashi guides the experience: welcoming all guests with the kind of hospitality that is deeply rooted in the Japanese culture. Following the omotenashi tradition, everything is in place, in time: perfect yet effortless. The needs of the guests are carefully thought of well in advance. All small details are taken into account. The space is welcoming but also demanding: entering the gate, guests are immediately expected to adapt to the tranquil and respectful environment of the spa's Japanese heritage. 

  Image: author's own

Image: author's own

Yoko was born and raised in Tokyo and moved to Israel ten years ago with her partner, an Israeli architect. Yoko Kitahara spa is the product of the couple’s uncompromising vision. Finding her way to adapt to the local culture, Yoko wanted to create a space that follows her own code, a place where she can invite others to join. She created the space that demonstrates a perfect balance between the two cultures: Japanese culture in the historical Yafo atmosphere. While the inside space is minimalist and quiet, open windows expose the guests to sounds from the surrounding narrow streets and the sea.

  Image: author's own

Image: author's own

After finding their way to the spa in the Old Yafo labyrinth, guests can leave any tensions, urban stress - and shoes - at the door. They are welcomed with an open and warm kimochi (feeling and spirit). In Yoko Kitahara, this includes a cup of organic tea, a calming of all senses in an Ashi-Yu foot bath, made of Japanese Hinoki cypress wood, and an oshibori hot towel. Smells are an essential part of the experience: hinoki has a smell of zen, aroma diffusers provide carefully designed aromatherapy, oils are organic and used in exactly the right amount.

  Image: author's own

Image: author's own

  Image: author's own

Image: author's own

The treatments are a combination of shiatsu therapy with the right kimochi. The treatments are slow and deep, guests are invited to breathe together with the therapist. Finally, they are invited to stop for a moment and take a breath on the rooftop, to follow the waves of the Mediterranean sea, feel the breeze, or see the sunset colour the sky expressively burnt red.