May’s Garden Spa, Roppongi: A Beauty Salon With History And Principles

Where Holistic Beauty Treatments And Hollywood Glam Go Hand-in-Hand

By Jessica Sayuri Boissy
June 29, 2017
Health & Beauty

An exclusive Japan-inspired body treatment at a historic Hollywood-glitz beauty salon in the heart of Tokyo.

From luxurious body treatments and superb facials to custom-scented aromatherapy massages, Tokyo is heaven when it comes to providing us with opportunities to brush up on our everyday look. But when I recently visited May’s Garden Spa, a skincare salon in Roppongi operated by the renowned Hollywood Beauty Salon, I came to know that just like achieving true beauty, thriving in the aesthetic industry takes more than just a retouch on the surface: it takes years of dedication and devotion to one’s principles.  

A Beauty Salon Ahead Of Its Time

Blazing into its 92nd year, Hollywood Beauty Salon has been a reigning Tokyo establishment for beauty pursuers since 1925. The company’s founder Kiyoto Ushiyama, a thinker ahead of his time, was a pioneer in introducing Western beauty regimens to the neon-lit metropolis.

After a seven-year stint acting in Hollywood, Ushiyama returned to Japan in 1924 with a newfound interest in cosmetics — namely, makeup techniques and hair treatments that embodied the golden age of onscreen glamor. A year later, the entrepreneur set up his first salon in Kanda, and the rest, as they say, is history.

His equally pioneering wife, May Ushiyama, however, was the mastermind behind the company’s successful namesake salon: May’s Garden Spa. From oxygen facials to essential oil massages, this all-around beauty salon prides itself in providing premium head-to-toe treatments. Yet, regardless of the type of treatment, throughout the years, May’s founding philosophy has focused on one prime principle: the alignment of beauty, body, and soul.  

From oxygen facials to essential oil massages, this all-around beauty salon prides itself in providing premium head-to-toe treatments.

“True beauty,” as defined by the late founder, “is beyond the superficial. Rather, it radiates from the inside out when our body and mind begin to align.”

And while the husband-and-wife duo were trendsetters ahead of their time, the couple’s philosophy of giving back—after getting ahead—was also notably progressive.

Following their success, the two established the Hollywood Beauty School to support the economic independence of working women in the 1920s; released the first Japan-made mascara in 1937, and introduced an extensive cosmetics line from sustainably sourced ingredients well into the 21st century. In their lifetime, the Ushiyamas continued fostering a holistic approach to their brand’s beauty care, serving the best to their clients and local communities.

Exclusive Treatments For The Body And Soul

With a focus on professional-quality treatments within a moderate price range, May instilled the motto of “first-class to high-class service” when building her beauty empire.

Her skincare sanctuary, May’s Garden Spa, opened to the public in 2003 and has since served as a model for the founders’ prevailing philosophy — which I had the privilege to experience upon a recent visit to try the salon’s signature “Wa” Aroma Body treatment.

Upon entering the spa, I was struck by its at-home atmosphere. The all-white interior, reminiscent of a cozy cottage, is adorned with contemporary oil paintings, flowing sheer curtains, and sleek lighting fixtures. Yet, a striking photo of the exquisite kimono-clad Mrs. Ushiyama standing beside the legendary Grace Kelly, serves as a reminder of the late beautician’s remarkable global encounters.  

Yuka Atsumi, the spa’s head aesthetician, escorted me to a vanity table where my consultation for the aromatherapy body massage would begin. After a few minutes of enjoying the salon’s signature elixir (a blend of green tea, barley, and lemon), my two-hour “Wa” Aroma Body session began with a 10-minute consultation to assess my physical condition that day. I was then guided into one of the spa’s four spacious treatment rooms — all exclusively for women.

A plush robe and foot bath were awaiting my arrival in the snug treatment room furnished with an Italian-crafted massage table, a walk-in shower, and a vibrant painting of peonies. As I slowly slipped into serenity, Atsumi, to my surprise, pulled out not the standard essential oils bottles, but bark and botanicals perfuming on four respective plates.

I was given the choice to select my scent of preference among Japanese cypress (hinoki) to enhance blood flow and stimulate bile secretion; Japanese cedar (sugi) to activate the breakdown of fat; white fir (momi) to restore balance to the nervous system; and spicebush (kuromoji) to revive skin elasticity.

Each seductive whiff evoked enchanting forests, which made it hard to choose just one, but I ultimately went with the warm, woody aroma of Japanese cedar — the same trees found throughout sacred Shinto shrines.

Settled under a heated blanket, I was in absolute bliss during the 80-minute massage. Atsumi slathered my limbs with the personalized blend of rice bran oil (to boost skin hydration) and wild-crafted cedar essence selected from earlier. Starting at the toes, her long kneading strokes traveled up my sore calves, stiff back and shoulders, to the temples of my head.  

The treatment concluded with a 10-minute sweat session to cleanse the body of toxins — all while cocooned in a thermal blanket.

Following the sublime massage, full bath amenities (including a shower cap, washcloth, and body gel) were provided in the en suite shower, while a full-blown makeup kit (from a spectrum of foundation shades to a kaleidoscope of eyeshadows) was awaiting me in the consultation room.

Aside from soothing stress-stricken muscles, what struck me the most was the “feel good” benefits of a full-body massage that gives back to the community at large. May’s Garden Spa consciously uses Yuica—an ethically sourced essential oil brand—which carries out a forest-conservation campaign in Hida Takayama, a renowned mountainous region in Gifu Prefecture.

This, combined with tranquility, exclusive care, and carefully selected scents, are what lies behind the choice of “Wa,” or harmony, in the name of this invigorating treatment that shines in a league of its own.

I can confidently say that my body and soul felt harmonized as I left May’s Garden Spa: freshly rejuvenated by a beauty regimen that, truly, is beyond skin deep.  

The Deets

Hollywood Beauty Salon & May’s Garden Spa

Address: Roppongi Hills Hollywood Beauty Plaza 3F, 6-4-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Access: 3-minute walk from Tokyo Metro Roppongi Station (Exit 1C)
Tel: 03-3408-1613
Business Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Friday until 9 p.m., Saturday & Sunday until 7 p.m.)
Featured Menu: Japanese “Wa” Aromatherapy Body Massage (120 minutes)/ ¥20,000

As a San Francisco native, Jessica grew up in a bilingual and bicultural household in one of the most culturally-progressive and colorful cities in the United States. Since officially moving to Japan in 2012, she currently resides and revels in the rural serenity of her "home away from home" in Ibaraki Prefecture. A self-proclaimed "wanderlust-er," she loves making time for travel adventures, whether big or small, from Japan's cornucopia of tourist attractions to hidden destinations that lie off the beaten path.

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