City Living: Life’s a beach! Ganbanyoku (Rock Bathing)

You’re on the beach. The heat from the hot sand wraps your
body in a warm embrace. We all deserve a little escape from the daily grind, but you don’t have to travel to the Caribbean to get it. 
Ganbanyoku (rock bathing) is one of the hottest Japanese spa trends. With over 4,000 rock bathing spas in Japan alone, we thought it was time to investigate this wellness trend. 

We visited Iyashi Bedrock Spa, located in uptown Toronto, which is the first of its kind in North America and the only place you can experience rock bathing in our fair city. 

Inside the The Traditional Suite at Iyashi Bedrock Spa. There are 17 glorious beds. You can also book the Deluxe Suite which offers a more intimate experience with just 4 beds (couples retreat?). 

The secret to the hot hot heat is in the black silica stones. They provide two main activities Far Infrared Rays (FIR) and Negative Ions. Basically, the rays from the stones detox your body and provide benefits that include anti-aging, pain relief from conditions such as arthritis and of course, you will sweat out tons of calories. 

If you’re not a fan of saunas and hot yoga, you may want to consider rock bathing. We tried the hot yin yoga. A slow yoga practice, all of the moves are done in a sitting or laying down position. You’ll experience a deep stretch that will leave you feeling rejuvenated. The warmth of the hot stones is especially nice on the sitting bones in your back. The room itself is not heated,  the heat is emitted through the floor, so you won’t experience that choking feeling. 

You can do your own yoga stretch or just enjoy a detoxifying nap. 
You will sweat buckets! Yet, it’s recommend that you
don’t shower for two hours after leaving the spa. If you’re
thinking that you may not be able to tolerate your smell, think again. The
sweat that your body produces from this kind of heat is different, believe it or not, you will not smell. The odour-free sweat is a great treatment for your skin and hair.

With a group of 10 guests you can rent out the Traditional Suite. A great idea for a day with the girls, or even an activity for a bachelorette party. Go all the way there with some green juice from Belmonte Raw.
Ingredients like ginger, kiwi, cucumber and carrot will give you an energy boost and keep your insides clean. 

There’s nothing like a good sweat with some good friends. 

If you’re interested in trying it out and getting a little stress-relief (Toronto Life ranked it 10/10 for reducing stress) check out the site below. Give them a call or just wander on in. You’ll love it! Namaste.

2662 Yonge St. (between Eglinton and Lawrence)
416.488.ROCK (7625)


Yum, Yum: Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year,
you’ll know that Toronto’s ramen scene is booming (yes, we now have a ramen ‘scene’).
So when we heard that 
Ryoji Ramen
& Izakaya
 (690 College St.) was opening its first international location in Toronto
(booming ramen scene, like we said), we knew we had to check it out.

The first thing you notice about Ryoji is the sheer size of the place.
The restaurant seats 103 people via an assortment of booths, bar seats, leather chairs
and a large communal table. Not only is the space huge, it’s beautifully
decorated. Wood, mirrors and lights are the central themes of the restaurant,
creating an ambiance that makes you feel like you’re no longer in Toronto. 

Great ambiance and design.
Wood, lights and mirrored ceilings transport you from Toronto to ramen land.

Not only is the decor spectacular, but the food is pretty
darn good too. The menu ranges from tapas & salads to homemade tofu to deep-fried
and grilled items, and of course Toronto’s food du jour, ramen. We started with
the delicious Poki Salad, a Hawaiian-style salad with fresh fish sashimi and citrus fruit
on top of mixed greens, topped with Ryoji’s sweet chili dressing ($10).
Confused by the Hawaii reference, our dinner guest kindly pointed out that Japan and
Hawaii aren’t that far apart (duly noted for our next Cash Cab appearance).
Hawaiian + Japanese = a luau in our mouths.

What we love so much about Ryoji is that many of the dishes
are specific to Okinawa, an island south of mainland Japan, like ji-ma-mi, homemade peanut tofu ($6). This isn’t
your typical tofu, ji-ma-mi is made from boiled peanut extract and flour that
create a sticky and smooth tofu-like dish. Topped with a finger-licking good
sauce (soy, ginger and brown sugar we think), peanut tofu is something you’ll just have to experience yourself.
Eat like the Okinawans and try the ji-ma-mi; definitely not your average tofu.

Now, we’re not ramen aficionados but this is one seriously
kick ass bowl of soup. Ryoji offers three types of ramen: Otoko-Aji (Tonkotsu),
a rich pork bone broth topped with chashu (pork belly), bean sprouts, scallions
and kikurage mushrooms ($11); Onna-Aji (Shio), a light and flavourful chicken
and pork bone broth topped with chashu, leek konbu, fish cake and dried seaweed ($11); and Ryoji black, the restaurant’s own soya based Ramen – spinach, chashu,
cabbage, menna, leek and yaki-nori ($12). 
Not only were we head over heels with the Shio ramen, but we found a real-life emoji.

Last on the docket was our pick from the fried menu, Ryoji takoyaki – fried mashed potato balls
with octopus, tonkatsu sauce and mayo ($7). Ideal for sharing, these are like a Japanese take on Tater Tots, with an octopus surprise in the middle. 
Deep fry pretty much anything and we’re game. 

As per usual, we suggest going with a group of people so you can sample as much of the vast menu as possible.  

Jet Set: 10 Tokyo Must-Do’s that Don’t Cost a Penny

It’s that time of year again, you’re starting to think about planning vacations to hot and sunny destinations. Wait, before you book yet another all-inclusive resort, consider a week in one of the world’s premiere cities. Known for being a leader in cultural trends, Tokyo has amazing shopping, nightlife and is the perfect balance between modern metropolis and quaint old world beauty. Contrary to popular belief, Tokyo can be accomplished on the cheap, it just takes a little creativity. The metro system is top notch and will take you straight to any destination that you can imagine. We’ve compiled our top 10 totally free activities below. We hope this inspires you to book your ticket.  

If you haven’t hit karaoke too hard the night before, plan
to get over to the famous market for five a.m. There, you’ll witness the world’s largest fish
market and live auction.
How to get there: Take the metro to Tsukiji-Shijo or Tsukiji
stations and follow your nose!
Worthy spend: Locals will stop by on their way to work for  breakfast and we suggest you take their lead. Be warned, there are no rolls here people, just melt in your mouth pieces of fresh tuna
and salmon. Yummy.

Going once, going twice…

      Breakfast of champions.
2. Look around for Harijuku Girls
Prime Harijuku Girl sightings will generally happen on the weekend. If you’re only planning to stop in Tokyo for a
few days, try to accommodate, you won’t be disappointed. 
These girls put so much effort and detail into their looks – we should have to pay just to look at them – but here’s just another reason why Tokyo is so awesome. Harijuku and
surrounding streets are also filled with boutiques offering new and vintage clothing and accessories. 
How to get there: Take the metro to Harajuku station. Observe.

We’re impressed.
Image source

Good idea, Gwen.

3. Cross the street! Shibuya Crossing
Trust us, this is an activity. This four way intersection is an
experience (you have to be there). At night it’s especially beautiful when the
city lights turn on. We hung out at the coolest Starbucks with glass windows that offer a lookout point for gawking and people watching.
How to get there: Take the metro to Shibuya station.

4. Loiter in a park – Yoyogi Park
Stunning parks offer a sweet escape from the sensory
overload of the city. You may bump into local musicians practising by a tree, a jiu-jitsu class in training – you never know who or what
you might see. Relax and read a book near the pond, which is also a great place for
bird watching.
Worthy spend: Ueno Park.
Ueno has a lot to offer including sprawling gardens, museums,
temples, a zoo and a little amusement park for kids. Visit during cherry blossom
season (which begins in late April) and you’ll be in heaven. 
Admission for adults is around 400 Yen = $4 Canadian. There
is additional admission to visit one of the many museums and art galleries on the park grounds.
How to get there: Take the metro to Ueno station.

Napping in Yoyogi Park, why not?
 Cherry blossom season in Ueno Park. 
The most famous shrine in Tokyo, this is a
gorgeous and understated temple that is open seven
days a week. Take a nice stroll around the temple grounds to take in the charming gardens. Located across from Yoyogi Park, these two landmarks make for one
very zen afternoon.
Meji Shrine temple, located in Asakusa.

6. Spectacular Skyline Views – The Tokyo Metropolitan Building
This government
building has two observation decks that offer breathtaking skyline views. On a
clear day you can see all the way to Mount Fuji and you can locate other Tokyo
landmarks including the Meiji Shrine and the Tokyo Tower. 
There is also a tourist information desk in the building which
is always helpful.

7. Lost in Translation?
Attention movie buffs: Located right around the corner from the Tokyo Metropolitan
Building, The Park Hyatt Tokyo is the infamous hotel where Lost in Translation was filmed. 
Worthy spend: Experience high tea or hang out for a few cocktails in the hotel bar.    

We’d like to be lost in Tokyo anytime, Scarlett.

This tower only opened in March 2012. Although it’s not free to go
up to the observatories, and you must book in advance, it is free to wander around
the shopping floors. The modern architecture and design is what makes this new landmark a must see. 
Worthy spend: Sumida
Aquarium. Located on the 5th floor of the Tokyo Sky Tree, this
aquarium is impressive and features a massive tank filled with penguins and a
few seals that you can watch swim under water. Admission is 2000 Yen = $25 Canadian.

9. Old Town Tokyo – Asakusa and Zenkoji Temple
This is a popular neighbourhood for backpackers as it boasts
many inexpensive yet surprisingly clean hostels, or try a night in a capsule hotel. Spend some time strolling around
the market in Asakusa where you can taste some Japanese treats filled with red bean paste and find other traditional souvenirs.
You will also come across the Zenkoji temple and surrounding
gardens, a truly romantic place to be at night.

 Zenkoji Temple.
10. Festivals 
There are tons of festivals that take place around the city at every time of year. It’s definitely worth looking into what’s happening while you’re there, so that you don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of a true Japanese cultural celebration.

The peace sign! Everyone’s doing it.

Tokyo is a must do for these reasons and many more. Since you’ll be saving some cash with these tips, you can spend a few extra dollars on karaoke bars, a sumo wrestling show or a few nights in one of Tokyo’s many luxury hotels. The city is really yours to interpret and enjoy.

City Living: High Park Cherry Blossom Walk

Toronto has a lot of great (and free) nature activities in the spring, including one of our favourite things to do – head to High Park to check out the blooming Sakura trees.

Sakura trees bloom with flowers that are nearly pure white with just a hint of pink near the stem, but they only last for about a week before the leaves come out – fleeting beauty. This season, the flowers first bloomed around April 11 because of our early spring. We recommend going at off-peak times when there are less people around to really experience the serenity this natural phenomenon offers.

Sakura is the Japanese name for flowering cherry trees and their flowers, often referred to as cherry blossoms. There is a Japanese legend that each spring, a fairy maiden hovers low in the warm sky, awakening the sleeping cherry trees with her delicate breath. How romantic!

In 1959, the Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara, presented 2000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura trees to Toronto on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo. The trees were planted in appreciation of Toronto accepting re-located Japanese-Canadians following the Second World War. Over the years, many of these trees were donated to High Park.


It is a truly beautiful thing to witness, but they only last two or three weeks before falling off. Hurry and get to High Park to catch them before they’re gone.

Facebook: High Park Nature Centre
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