The Spa Spy blog

The highest gym in the world?

The Park Hyatt hotel in Tokyo soars over so many places in so many respects, and the view from the gym is one of them. I have rarely enjoyed running quite so many miles in the air, with a stunning view of Tokyo below.

The gym is on the 47th floor, but you reach it via the spa reception desk on the 45th, where they issue you with a locker number. As in all spas in Japan, you take off your outdoor shoes before entering the changing rooms. You leave your shoes in the small locker designated by your number then, suitably barefoot, go through to change at the correspondingly numbered locker in the main changing rooms.

If you're there for a workout, don't forget that your gym shoes are "outdoor" shoes and you can't wear them in the changing rooms. If you need to visit the loo, this has its own special pair of "toilet slippers" which you put on for your visit, and remove afterwards.

You reach the pool and gym via a dedicated lift that moves between the 45th and 47th floors. You emerge into a huge, light, high-windowed area which floats above Tokyo. The gym is divided into two glass-walled areas, on either side of the pool. On one side are running machines and free weights; on the other, cross-trainers, cycles and mats for crunches.

A member of staff immediately identified me as a newbie on my first emergence from the elevator and took care to point out the water machine, the towels, and the free headphones to borrow. I had brought my own iPod and he showed me how to plug it in to the cross-trainer so that I could control the music via the touch screen. Almost too high-tech for me! Every time my machine went beep, a member of staff flew over to make sure the beeps were under my control and I wasn't lost in the gym.

There is something very uplifting about the view, which lends a new dimension to a workout.

If you want to swim, you will have to observe the protocol for pools in this part of the world. You can't display any visible tattoos, so attire yourself for swimming accordingly. My helpful young gym-man explained that I should go back down to the changing rooms, don a one-piece bathing suit, a bathrobe, and some pool slippers, then come back up. Slippers and white fluffy robe are available in spades in the changing rooms, so this was no problem (just remember about taking your gym shoes off before you go back into the changing rooms). On my re-arrival, A Helpful Person issued me with a swim-cap, and showed me where to shower before entering the water.

The pool is a very good size for a swim, and there are loungers at each end should your exertions leave you needing a bit of a lie-down. But don't lie there too long, as the spa beckons!

Go back down to the changing rooms, shower thoroughly (as you always need to before getting into a Japanese spa) and go through the glass door to enjoy the green-and-black marble heat facilities. Don't miss these! Like most spas in Japan, the facilities are single-sex and being naked is a necessity. Although you can wrap your hair up in a towel. The water and saunas are unnervingly HOT but the ice-cold plunge pool gives a refreshing tingle.

To recover from my jet-lag, I had booked a shiatsu pressure point massage. I waited for my therapist in the relaxation area at the far side of the changing rooms, where there is a huge TV, magazines, and tea. My massage went a long way towards unknotting my jet-lag, though at times I would have preferred the pressure to be a little stronger. Hard to convey, though, when you don't speak any Japanese and your therapist doesn't speak any English.

The showers and changing rooms contain everything you could possibly need at a spa: hair stuff, moisturiser, toothpaste and toothbrush sets, and - my favourite - individually wrapped cotton buds.

Famous as the hotel where Lost In Translation was filmed, the Park Hyatt Tokyo offers a very special if pricy stay in Tokyo. On our last night, we took out a small mortgage to eat at the New York Grill on the 52nd floor, where the food, the views and the service were simply spectacular. Who cares if I undid all my good work in the gym with my Kobe beef? I won't be back here again for a long time, so I am glad I made the most of it!