TALLINN - "Everything smells like Home Depot," I thought as I began to wind deeper through corridors of the building.
This was surprising, as I was moving through a fitness center. This was not the first surprise that Arigato, a brand new, Japanese-style fitness and relaxation complex in Tallinn's Oismae district, had given me that morning: the building itself is an engaging piece of modern architecture, far from resembling the shed-like structure of other fitness complexes.
I was taken through the honeycomb of rooms by Tomomi Uchida, service manager and herself Japanese. The tour began in the stylish cafe, encased in towering windows that must require ample amounts of glass-cleaner.
The vast main fitness and cardio hall is filled with enough equipment to construct a steam locomotive. Tomomi informed me that Arigato focused on full-body fitness versus body-building, and the array of apparatuses provides guests with approaches to achieving this balance. If you are looking for steroid-fueled radioactive giants, Arigato is the wrong place.
The number of dance and activity halls is staggering, along with the available classes. A medical center (for training consultation), Chinese massage therapy, a solarium and beauty services will soon be fully operational.
As the whirlwind tour continued, I felt as if merely treading through the spaces was a workout. Just as we entered through another door and I felt like asking to stop for a water break from my "trainer," Tomomi turned and said seriously, "This is a relaxation area now."
A fundamental part of the Arigato experience is this soothing of body and soul. "Fitness" is not only physical but is deeply connected to the mental state. This is where Arigato's traditional Japanese methods fully envelop its guests.
The name of the experience is "yasuragi," meaning "relaxation" in Japanese. A pleasing moist air wrapped around me as I stepped towards two pools 's one circular, the other disappearing into the far windows in a waterfall. The water lies even with ground level, the slatted wood drains seamlessly rippling into waves. A slight fragrance drifted from several candles along the windows, and several plants mingled with the earthy tones of the room.
"We keep the air at 36 - 38 degrees Celsius, it's the best for the body," said Tomomi. The water in the pools, including an outdoor one, is kept close to this comfortable temperature.
A balcony contains this outer pool, and the wind swept sheets of steam into the gray sky as we stepped through the set of doors. "It's so beautiful to lie in the pool when it snows," Tomomi said.
Tomomi explained the importance of cleanliness before experiencing "onsen" (the pools), as the process is strictly for relaxing the body.
A row of Japanese-style showers complements the Western types; low faucets under which the bather rinses sitting on a low stool. Both Finnish and steam saunas complete the experience.
A second level above the onsen provides space to rest from relaxation. Deck chairs recline under soft lights around a small stand of fruit and nuts. Water and green tea is also available, often served by Tomomi herself in traditional Japanese dress.
With a combination of fitness and relaxation, Arigato provides a separate reality for bodily revitalization far from the stress of working life 's in far-away Oismae. Kneeling at a table in the traditional Japanese room of the cafe and sipping on bamboo tea, I could think of few better places to be or things to be doing. Not even writing an article.
Arigato sports club
Rannamoisa tee 3, Tallinn
Tel. +372 658 0880www.arigato.ee