Breathe, stretch, relax

圖 Photos Eduardo Martins
Recently we visited Japanese masseuse Ryoma Ochiai in his serene sanctuary
The summer holidays are over and it’s back to work and busy routines, and that can mean a lot of stress for some, and even pain.  Modern lifestyles of standing or sitting all day long, mean back, shoulder, neck and foot pain for many people.  But help is not far away, as we discovered recently when we visited Japanese masseuse Ryoma Ochiai in his  serene sanctuary, up a few flights of stairs just off Senado Square.
 
Despite it’s central location, Ryoma’s massage centre is blissfully quiet, and simple, with just a bare wooden floor and a couple of cushions in the corner and some Eastern ornaments on a low table at the side of the room.  And it’s here that Ryoma performs his masseuse magic with his own very unique style. 
 
“It’s a bit difficult to explain the style exactly.  It doesn’t really have a name.  I had a master in Japan and he had a particular style, and I followed his style exactly,” explains Ryoma. “I use the ‘shiatsu’ technique of applying pressure and stretching, a bit like Thai massage stretching, but a bit more dynamic.”
 
“Most therapists focus on being very tough on tight muscles which is very painful, but this makes the muscle even more hard in the future.  I focus on the muscle, but I have a more whole body approach,” he adds.
 
Ryoma approaches his patient calmly and quietly with slow, graceful, but strong movements, stretching and moving their bodies and limbs with an expert feel.  He acknowledges that he has adapted his style a bit for Macau, adding more shiatsu and Thai techniques, but always incorporating his own style as well.
 
Working for himself with only private clients recommended by word-of-mouth, Ryoma says that most of his clients usually come with complaints of lower back pain and higher back pain from sitting at the computer. 
 
“Or some sports injuries; sometimes people use their bodies the wrong way, especially when they’re doing power training, without a proper trainer. So I try to correct and teach them what I know,” he says.
 
Ryoma explains that his sessions usually last for a couple of hours, with a focus not only on healing, but also understanding his patient and educating them.
 
“I start by talking about the problem and their lifestyle, then I check their body and do the therapy, and then finish with some instructions and advice about what they should do.  I always try to fix or correct the problem, or at least relieve the pain in one session.” 
 
And while his main focus is on working with muscle pain and posture, he also offers more traditional relaxation treatments, like head and facial massages.
 
Originally from Tokyo, Ryoma has been practicing massage for 13 years, since he graduated from university. He studied at medical college for three years and trained in Thailand before returning to Japan to work as an assistant in a Thai massage shop.
 
But the real turning point in his career came when he found his master in Kamakura, just outside Tokyo, who introduced him to the unique approach he uses today.
 
Another pivotal moment came in late 2011, when a tsunami hit the Japanese coastline, inflicting very serious damage on a nuclear power plant in Fukushima. 
 
“Because of Fukushima, people became very nervous about living in Japan. The situation in Fukushima was 100 per cent the reason I decided to come to Macau”. 
 
Originally, his plan was to open a restaurant with a friend of his, but the plans didn’t work out.  Lucky for us!