Finding Zen


There’s no denying there’s a growing trend of wellness and spirituality being incorporated into salon and spa treatments.

One stunning location that has embraced this trend is Azabu Retreat & Spa, which is one of Byron Bay’s most unique accommodation getaways.

Situated on a lush, five-acre property, completely surrounded by greenery on the outskirts of Byron Bay, Azabu is a place to retreat, relax and recharge.

Owner Terence-Liam Preece, who goes by the name of TP, said Azabu was not the home to hinterland hippies, which has often been the image associated with Byron Bay and its colourful characters looking to embrace a more alternative lifestyle.

“Azabu is not just another place to stay in Byron,” TP said.

“Azabu has been designed in an attempt to capture the authentic nature of living the life the locals love.”

You won’t see a tie-dye top or rainbow-coloured cushion in sight- Azabu instead has a strong Japanese influence, with authentic kimonos adorning the walls alongside Japanese art, and a vase of cherry blossoms greeting guests in the reception area.

“All our guests enter Azabu under the Torii, a traditional Japanese gate typically found as the entrance to Shinto temples,” TP explained.

“Guests are urged to retreat from the daily tedium of technology in order to reconnect with their inner temple of tranquility.”

Contributing to the ambience is carefully selected music that TP, a university qualified master coach, said has been well-researched to “have a deep effect on our emotions, acting as a subtle therapy for elevating positive energy” that quietly plays in reception.

“The natives love the mellow music that welcomes you to the serenity of Azabu’s reception setting, inducing a state of serenity to rinse the dust from a weary soul,” he said.

Looking out the window you may also get a glimpse of one of the five tame peacocks that roam the property, displaying their beautiful feathers during mating season to those who walk by.

The rooms continue to follow the Japanese theme – there are only five boutique, elevated suites on the property and in typical Japanese fashion, the rooms are smallish in size and come furnished with minimal décor.

They feature shoji screen styled timber panelling, polished floorboards and large, floor-to-ceiling windows.

French doors open out onto a private balcony with 360-degree views of lush native hoop pine forest.

From the balcony, you can touch towering timbers of hoop-pines that have stood like silent sentinels for centuries.

Some of the tree in the forest are up to 60 metres tall and are able to live for up to 450 years.

“The architectural appeal of Azabu’s understated, Zen-like simplicity pares back unnecessary clutter to provide a room that is intimately cosy and comfortable,” TP said.

TP said he encouraged all guests to put away their phones and really immerse themselves in the surrounding greenery.

“We like our guests to indulge in some nature therapy, known in Japanese culture as Shinrin Yoku, or the meditative practice of ‘bathing in the forest’,” TP said.

“Researchers have found that just 15 minutes of mindful attention to nature lowers blood pressure, reduces stress levels and improves mental clarity.

“As Gibran wrote in his exquisite journal, ‘Let the grass kiss your feet’.”

The property also features a yoga platform in the forest for guests to relax, meditate or just breathe.

“We want to provide a place where complete restoration of health, hope and heart can be focused on,” TP said.

The spa treatments at Azabu reflect this important connection with nature and earth that is heavily promoted at Azabu.

“Those enjoying a therapeutic treatment at Azabu will get not so much a temporary indulgence but rather a holistic immersion into a world of natural beauty,” TP said.

Guests are encouraged to arrive early for their treatment so they can make the most of the outdoor pool, sauna and heated spa facilities.

They are then given a cup of Japanese tea to sip while listening to the ancient sounds of oriental flute music.

On the menu are a number of treatments that include Therapeutic Deep Tissue Massage, Asahi Hot Stone Massage, Green Tea and Vitamin C Anti-Ageing Facial, Multi Detox Deep Cleanse Facial, Zen Body Polish, Reflexology Treatment and Spa Manicures and Pedicures.

Byron Bay local and spa manager Kirsty Waldron, who has worked at Azabu for five years, said one of the most popular treatments was the two-hour Azabu Escape Package, which included a body buffing salt scrub, full body relaxation massage, mini facial and a hand and foot massage.

Locally-made Organic Spa products are exclusively stocked and used for treatments.

“We chose this brand for our spa due to the fact that the company is close, accessible, ethical, and most importantly, produces great products,” she said.

Kirsty said a number beauty brands who were certifying themselves as organic in Australia were sometimes misleading consumers.

“Some beauty brands claiming to be organic are questionable,” Kirsty said.

“But Organic Spa is food-grade certified organic – their products are amazing.”

Kirsty said she loved being in the industry as she was a natural healer.

“I love that I am able to make people feel good in a beautiful location and nurturing environment,” she said.

Far from being another place to stay in Byron, Azabu is a relaxing sanctuary that encourages reflection and renewal through a deep connection to the majesty of nature, something we’ll seeing a lot more of in the future.

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