Sink into minimalism at Yoko Kitahara wellness centre in Tel Aviv
Hidden behind an unassuming gate on a small, cobbled street in the old city of Jaffa, just five minutes walk from the new John Pawson-designed hotel, The Jaffa, is the wellness centre Yoko Kitahara, named after its eponymous owner.
What was two 500-year-old Ottoman-era homes, is now a stripped back, serene ‘house of treatment’ with five peaceful treatment rooms and a retail space, where guests are invited to enjoy what Kitahara describes as a ‘minimalist and accurate experience’.
The building, which features expressive, vaulted ceilings, smooth tiled floors and walls finished with a traditional mix of clay and sand in the softest natural shades, feels entirely rooted in its local history and architectural vernacular. Yet with Kitahara’s own subtle hand applied to the interior design, there’s an immediate sense of her Japanese heritage: humble, respectful, unadorned, but with added vintage elements, such as a pair of Eames chairs, a Scandinavian coffee table, and low-key lighting.
A tearoom with a bespoke Tatami mat made in Kyoto, looks out to the sea. A quiet soundtrack, a subtle waft of incense, an invitation to take Japanese tea and soak one’s feet in an ashiyu wooden bath prior to treatments, ensure every sense is gently engaged.
Kitahara moved from Japan to Tel Aviv 13 years ago and began practising her own type of massage, which blends both eastern and western techniques, drawing upon traditional Shiatsu and Swedish massage. This wellness centre, which opened in October 2017, offers a compact and effective treatment list including the house massage Hogushi Aroma – Hogushi means ‘to release and open’ in Japanese – as well as facials and a body scrub. All products used are organic.
‘We try to make a treatment flow, it’s more of a philosophy of how to treat the people and to connect with nature,’ explains Kitahara. ‘That’s really important for me – to give more. We use a lot of breathing techniques between therapist and client. The use of aromatherapy and essential oils, hot towels, changing the temperature – it’s like a voyage of relaxation. We want people to come and enjoy it in a very simple way’. §