By Ashley Cox
The capital of Tohoku, Sendai, has no shortage of massage parlors. While prices and services vary, I found most of my massage shop visits lacked one thing: personality. Not so at Sabaidee and Tea (サバイディ＆ティー). From the store interior to the friendly and professional staff, my visit was so great I quickly became a regular customer.
Stepping inside Sabaidee and Tea, you feel as if you entered a miniature paradise. Thai decor tastefully accents the interior while the peaceful background music sets the mood. The entire store is well heated to encourage your muscles to relax and provide a more effective massage experience. The mats of the curtained-off rooms are also heated. One surprising fact is none of the staff are Thai, but in fact all Japanese. Don't judge a book by its cover though. All staff are professionally trained, some even have studied and been certified in Thailand. The welcoming owner Yuji has been to Thailand over ten times and enjoys sharing its unique culture so much that he opened this store. Staff speak Japanese and some basic English and Thai, depending on who is working. The store sells some Thai products and can offer tourism information or even help with booking should you want to visit. But let's get back to why you should really come here, the massages.
A glance at the menu shows the various options and services the store offers to its guests. The aroma oil therapy and foot reflexology courses are fantastic, while the traditional Thai massage is what sets the store apart from your other massage shops. Thai massage generally involves various assisted stretches mixed with some pressure point techniques. For first timers, it can be a little uncomfortable if your body is tight. The rigorous course, however, left my body feeling much more relaxed and loose than other massages I have had. I felt totally reenergized. Keep in mind the goal is relaxation and the staff are happy to accommodate more or less pressure, special requests, and lengths of service. If you can't decide which course to get, there are several package combinations.
What I enjoy most through my increasingly frequent visits is the genuine service. I really feel like a guest and not a customer. Before each massage, you change into the provided Thai style loose pants, then your feet are washed in warm soapy water. After a calming massage you are treated to your choice of hot or iced tea. The tea menu rotates daily with tea from Taiwan, China, and Thailand. You can buy some to take home if you would like. While sipping your tea in the cozy lobby, the staff engage in you in friendly conversation. Nothing is rushed here, and it is easy to feel at home.
This destination for relaxation can be found in a convenient downtown location. Sabaidee and Tea is just a five minute walk from Kotodaikoen Station on the third floor of the Sukegawa Building (助川ビル), steps away from the city's famed Zelkova tree-lined Jozenji Avenue. Reservations can be made in person, by calling 022-261-2081, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is a long-term resident and promoter in the Tohoku region. He has been a content producer for JapanTravel.com since 2012 and was the Miyagi Prefecture Regional Partner 2013-2015. Justin’s over 300 published travel and culture articles come from a background of studying in Akita, teaching English in Miyagi through the JET Program, and working for the government in Fukushima. He lives in the gyutan capital of the world, Sendai. Justin is an expert in local culture and history. He was the first foreign volunteer at Sendai City Museum and regularly advises the local volunteer guide group GOZAIN , which he is a veteran member, on guiding techniques and hidden locations in the city even locals don't know about. In his free time he enjoys delivering original walking tours, such as his Dark Sendai Tour (ghost tour) or Kokubuncho Mystery Tour (redlight district tour). Justin is also a Certified Sake Professional.