Sotai - Hurt so good

Happening Issue 123 Feb, 2012
Text by Sradda Thapa / Photo: ECS Media

Need a relaxing massage or a respite from aching bones? Go the Japanese way, try Sotai.

At 25 I’ve no backache to worry about and I would rather feed myself than have strangers’ hands on me for my precious thousand rupees. My mother at 50 years young, on the other hand, disagrees.

After trying acupuncture, acupressure, therapy, medication and following countless advice courtesy of both friends and strangers, she discovered Sotai. Tucked in a gulley between Hardic Fitness Center and Herman Bakery in Pulchowk, “Sotai & Kai-Therapy Centre - Japanese Traditional Physiotherapy and Relaxation Massage” is just slightly tricky to locate. But, you can always give them a call at 01 5543045.

One lazy Saturday spent prancing about town my mother declared her back was killing her again. So, we swung by the place to see if they would take walk-ins (as they are otherwise strictly an appointment-only place).

Lucky for us, there were two empty slots.
She went off for her “usual treatment” and asked the receptionist to arrange a “relaxing” massage for me. I’d planned to read but it felt rude to object so I stared at the lady, somewhat nervously.

My first and last massage had been in 2007 when I’d returned from a two-week trek and had asked for an Ayurvedic Massage at one of the very few non-sleazy massage parlors in Thamel –Himalayan Retreat Spa. While I’d relished the complimentary herbal tea, soothing music and scented oil, having to strip to my knickers had convinced me massages weren’t my thing. And yet, it was still so good that I’d say if you are on the north side of Bagmati to give them a call at 01 4700603.

Anyway, over here on Patan side you can imagine my relief when the lady at Sotai handed me pajamas. It seemed I’d be clothed. In fact as I was ushered into a sparsely decorated and ever so slightly dimmed room, a thin blanket was laid on top of me. I appreciated that kind of discretion as a young man started to knead the back of my legs. A few minutes later another lady crouch next to me and started on my back.

I wasn’t sure if I was smiling or grimacing in pain. There were four hands on me on four different body parts. So, while the massage on my limbs were gentle enough, it seemed I had grown a few knots on my back and having the lady loosen them almost brought tears to my eyes.

Eventually they asked me to lie on my left hand side as they worked on my calves and shoulder and then flipped me to my right side to do the same. Finally they had me lie on my back and they massaged the sole of my feet and each of my fingers. It was so relaxing I had to concentrate on not falling asleep. It seemed they knew my body better than me – which part needed gentle prodding and which part needed more pressure.

The skilled hands and peaceful ambience make Sotai a perfect spot for those who need the expert care and for those who want to give Japanese massage therapy a shot. Maybe I can attend to my muscles rather than my stomach every once in a while when I’ve got a thousand rupees to spare.

I can’t emphasize that massages hurt, both the Ayurvedic one in Thamel and this at Sotai, but it hurt so good. Then again, why else would people pay to get more of them, right?