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December 16, 2006

Fish Pedicure


Not a joke but, rather, a service of the Ooedo Onsen spa in Tokyo.

Amy Chozick described it in today's Wall Street Journal, as follows.

    Doctor Fish Foot Bath

    For the adventurous, there's the Ooedo Onsen. This three-year-old kitschy spa made to look like a centuries-old, shogun-era village lets visitors choose from 15 different yukatas (light cotton kimonos) to wear while inside. In addition to its 28 baths and massages, Ooedo offers an exotic esthetic treatment called Doctor Fish, a foot bath featuring live fish called garru-rufa.

    The small fish swim in a shallow tub of warm water and nibble at dead skin, leaving hands and feet smooth [top]. Imported from Turkey, the fish are used in some Middle Eastern countries as a natural way to treat skin disease and rheumatism. Be warned: Dozens of fish chewing on flesh looks like something straight out of a horror movie. But when you get over the ick factor, the nibbling can have a calming affect. (www.ooedoonsen.jp; Tel: 81-3-5500-1126; $25 entrance).


Intrigued, I had the crack research team go deeper and they came up with a great story by Thomasina Larkin which appeared in the November 28, 2006 Japan Times, and follows.

    A feast for fish in search for beauty

    Growing up in the countryside, a lot of my youth was spent swimming in lakes and rivers for as many summer days as the weather would provide. I had no fear of cannon-balling off high cliffs, I was never bothered by the scrapes of underwater rocks and boulders, and no matter how how fast the current, I was always up for a dip.

    The one thing that freaked me out, though, was the feeling of sunfish that would creep up to take a taste of my toes. And when a few primary school friends and I watched Joe Dante's 1978 flick "Piranha" in an all-night horrorathon, my fish phobia was assured.

    So when I first heard about the latest beauty fad in Japan in which fish eat away dead skin cells from your hands and feet, I shuddered in fear and disgust.

    Garra rufa obtuse, aka "doctor fish," occur naturally in the waters of a hot spring near Kangal in Turkey's Sivas Province, and it was there that the fish's unique dietary habits were first discovered. Locals found that the fish would peck away at the dead and diseased skin of bathers, easing the symptoms of those suffering from skin conditions such as psoriasis (a chronic disorder that causes red, scaly patches on the skin) and abscesses.

    Also known as lickers, nibble fish, Kangal fish and reddish log suckers, doctor fish grow to 19 cm. Their bodies are covered in gold scales and they use their toothless, crescent-shaped mouths to nibble away dead skin softened by the Kangal spring's 37-38 degree water. If a bather suffers from an extreme skin ailment, the fish may eat so much that minor bleeding occurs, exposing the lesion to water and sunlight. The hot spring's water contains high levels of selenium, which helps heal wounds by protecting cells against free radicals.

    Why would these little fish want to eat scabby, diseased skin in the first place? The high temperature of the water makes it difficult for any nutrients to survive, turning the fish into voracious diners that will attack just about any foreign object that enters their domain — and if the going gets really tough, they'll eat each other.

    Species of fish similar to Garra rufa obtuse, called strikers, or cyprinion macrostomus, live in river basins in northern and central Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Iran and Iraq. And macropodus cupanus occur in Trivandrum's "holy pond" in India's southern state of Kerala, where they're used to treat diseases like scabies.

    For decades, people seeking alternative methods of healing have made pilgrimages to Kangal. While those in Japan will still have to cross oceans if they wish to receive the fish doctors' medical treatment for skin diseases, several spas and onsen in this country have begun to import the fish for use in the exfoliation of hands and feet, which has quickly become one of the newest crazes in health and beauty.

    The doctor fish fad started in March at Odaiba's Ooedo Onsen Monogatari and has spread to spas in Osaka, Fukushima and Hakone. Super spa and onsen resort Yunessun in Hakone currently boasts as many as 2,000 customers a day.

    I'm always up for the latest and greatest way to revive my health and beauty, and I'm a staunch believer of overcoming one's fears in life. So I called up Ooedo Onsen and booked one of the first appointments of the day to ensure the fish would be nice and hungry (patients are admitted between noon and 9 p.m.). After that it was just a matter of keeping images of my soon-to-be youthful hands and feet swimming in my mind.

    A Japanese friend who'd seen the fish therapy on TV told me the fish are more likely to go for older skin. If a child bathed next to his grandmother, the old woman would attract most of the fish. As I'm not over the hill yet, to add an extra lure, I refrained from my usual morning and nightly routine of scrubbing my hands and feet during my shower.

    Arriving at Ooedo, I breezed past a stream of people making appointments with the popular little doctors at a cost of 1,050 yen for 15 minutes. Peering into the roughly 3-sq.-meter, 50-cm-deep pool at the little miracle workers, I thought "That doesn't look so bad." About 500 or so fish, which were kind of cute and much smaller than the sunfish that went after my toes as a child, were scattered about the waters, with only a few nipping the other visitors' feet.

    But from the instant I dipped my feet into the lukewarm bath made of rock, dozens of the miniature carplike creatures came rushing toward me, covered my feet and began their feast. Their little suction-cup mouths were all over my feet and ankles, begging for more. Holy mackerel! I easily had triple the number of fish feeding on me compared to the half dozen other "patients" in the wading room.

    Maybe the fish like international cuisine? I had to pull my feet out a few times for fear they'd team up and drag my whole body under. I could only stand the tickling, tingly sensation (which others have described as a "massage") for a few minutes at a time before I'd just about go off the deep end.

    After 10 minutes, I tore myself away from the gilled gobblers — fearful that my feet would come out with fish still hanging off them — and escaped while I still had something left to walk on. From there it was on to more of the same in a hand bath (a 50-gallon tank into which you lower your hands). Watching and feeling the fish devour the dead cells on my hands brought a whole new meaning to the term "finger food." I skipped the fish dish later at lunch.

    The final result? My feet and hands were definitely smoother, but I have to admit there wasn't much difference between the outcome of the doctor fish treatment and my usual exfoliation routine in the shower. However, if sampling trendy — and unconventional — beauty treatments is your thing, go ahead and get your feet wet: You might find it's just what the doctor ordered.

    Fish for hire

    For silky-smooth hands and feet courtesy of doctor fish, try any of the following spas:

    Ooedo Onsen Monogatari
    2-57 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, 135-0064; tel: (03) 5500-1126; www.ooedoonsen.jp (Japanese only)

    Hakone Kowakien Yunessun
    1297 Ninotaira Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimogun, Kanagawa, 250-0407; tel: (0460) 2-4126; www.yunessun.com

    Spa Resort Hawaiians
    50 Warabi Daira, Joban Fujiwara-machi, Iwaki, Fukushima, 972-8555; tel: (0246) 43-3191; www.hawaiians.co.jp

    Osaka Spa World
    3-4-24 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka, 556-0002; tel: (06) 6631-0001; www.spaworld.co.jp (Japanese only)

December 16, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Please let me know if there are any in Long Beach/ LA county/Ventura county California! Thanks! I've been to a couple in korea and they're AMAZING!!!!

Posted by: Marylou Rose | Aug 13, 2009 12:58:20 AM

where can I find a shop in philadelphia to get an fish pedicure

Posted by: paulette | Dec 28, 2008 10:34:34 AM

I am the distrubutor for California for doctorfishsales.com
I will gurentee you the lowest price for these fish.
Call me: (626)407-2610

Estopheles Gray

Posted by: Estopheles Gray | Nov 11, 2008 9:46:36 PM

Let it be known here and now that Dr. Fish is a highly respected, highly paid, well-connected, well-dressed, well-travelled, beautifully-shod, lavishly-housed, emotionally stable, spiritually evolved, conversationally gifted, stallionly-endowed, muscular-buttocked young brain surgeon who does not give PEDICURES to hordes of eager little groupies trying to seduce him with their Flamingo Pink toenails and their gold ankle bracelets. Back off or I will smother you with your own depilatory wax. Dr. Fish is a very important and busy person who is on the brink of discovering how very, very generous and unselfish he is capable of being, with my freely given and saintlike help, and does not need distractions from young blonde bimbos waving their unkempt feet in his direction.

Almost Mrs. Dr. Fish

Posted by: So close to being Mrs. Dr. Fish | Nov 7, 2008 2:35:43 PM

I am also interested in the Dr. fish pedicure...I've been searching online for locations that offer the service..... and I haven't had any luck... Please! anyone?!? e-mail me at [email protected] if any Los Angeles or Orange County, CA locations open up....Thanks in advance!!!!!

Posted by: dianavalenz | Nov 7, 2008 12:18:13 PM

Don't be a sissy, just cut your feet of. Problem solved.

Posted by: RocketStumps | Nov 5, 2008 5:16:26 PM

Marti -- the way we do it up here in Indy is to soak our feet in bait and then go wading into the White River. Ya know, the sewer trout pedicure.

Try it...theys some hungry fish.

Posted by: clifyt | Nov 5, 2008 12:49:45 PM

Fish pedicure sounds great.. Little scary, but I would like to try it. Is there any where in Indianapolis IN or Greenwood IN to get a "Fish Pedicure"?

Thank you!
Marti Gonterman

Posted by: Marti Gonterman | Nov 5, 2008 11:15:05 AM

I found the best place in the San Jose/Santa Clara County area, it's at House of Aaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg

Posted by: DS | Oct 24, 2008 5:46:26 PM

Has anyone found fish pedicures in the San Jose/Santa Clara County area? Please email me a list of salons. Thanks!

Posted by: Kat | Oct 24, 2008 1:43:59 PM

Are there any fish pedicure salons in the philadelphia area?

Posted by: Stefanie | Oct 15, 2008 6:58:14 PM

I have callusis on my butt from settin so long. Do you think the fish would mine if I dipped it inthe warter for a littel while?? An dont make some joek about how the fish mite not but the othr custumers will. ha ha. Im srious.

--Scaley butted in Goergia

Posted by: Flatass | Oct 9, 2008 2:37:17 PM

Bev: You outdid yourself. Take my hat off to you dear.

Posted by: Milena | Oct 9, 2008 1:55:31 PM

I gots a shark I keep in my pool out back to eat garbidge, and he can take care of all of yalls feet trubles forever in one whack. Tell you what, I wont even charge for it - yall just dangle yer feet in the pool and it dont take long.
Your gonna need a ride home though.

Posted by: Flautfooted | Oct 9, 2008 1:28:54 PM

Joe, I'd been watching comment after comment pop up on your little comment column for this fish pedicure post and never ventured in to read it. I only wondered what it could be about. Today I finally gave in and thank goodness I did so. You see, I have simply lovely feet and get pedicures every week (hence the reason they are in such good shape) but, I have to confess that I've always had a foot nibbling fetish. Not myself doing it mind you, but having it done to me? Well, I simply adore it. Now that I discover that you are in the nibbling fish business, I find that I too would like some information from you. Could you tell me where in Houston I might find a spa with these little guys?

My thanks in advance for any help that you and your absolutely superb crack research team, might give.

Posted by: Milena | Oct 9, 2008 9:28:32 AM

As a former nail artist, dancer and model, I have dealt with heavy calluses, ingrown nails, heel cracks, etc. for 37 years. I have rhuematoid arthritis that affects my ability to keep feet conditions at a level that is just barely tolerable. I also have neuropathy in both feet. I have used every tool and method known to woman and man to soothe my feet in a safe manner that will not aggravate my conditions of open any wound no matter how small for possible infection due to rx compromising my immune system and slowing my ability to heal an injury. LOng ago and far away , my career took me to Ilamorada , Fl. I lived on a beech and walked in the sand every day for hours. The only time in my life my feet were not heavily callused. RA has limited my ability to walk and hold tools (pumice stone file what ever) much less strength and energy to power that tool. $600 social security does not even cover rent much less pedicures at a salon however if becomes medical treatment my insurance might kick in because condition becomes so painful and cracks bleed. Long time advocate of alternative treatments.. Thrilled that AMA accepts maggot and leech treatments for specific conditions. Hope dr fish is added soon. Salem OR

Posted by: marylou | Oct 9, 2008 12:48:13 AM

Please advise location near Louisville, Ky or Nashville, TN for a fish pedicure

Posted by: Margie Gibbs | Sep 22, 2008 9:05:19 AM

I heard about a fish pedicure located on Bee Ridge in Sarasota, FL. It is supposed to be located in the Sweet Bay shopping area. I cannot find this spa in the phone book, nor on the Internet. Please help! I have four people interested in trying this, but unable to follow through because I cannot find it. Thanks Judy Coy at dennisjudycoy

Posted by: | Sep 17, 2008 1:33:42 PM

please email a list of fish pedicure in San francisco,ca or nearest area. Thanks

Posted by: Tanya | Sep 12, 2008 4:06:04 PM

Any fish pedicures in the Tulsa Okla. area

Posted by: Martha | Sep 8, 2008 10:13:11 PM

Trying to locate the closest facility to Louisville, KY, which offers fish pedis =] Thanks!

Posted by: Melissa Banks | Sep 3, 2008 9:40:39 AM


Posted by: ANDREA | Aug 30, 2008 3:01:41 PM

I too am interested in these Dr. Fish pedicures in the Northern CA, North Bay, SF, Sonoma area. Way cool.

Posted by: Dee | Aug 14, 2008 3:06:08 AM

Please email me locations of the fish pedicure in Los Angeles or Orange County California...THANKS

Posted by: Tammy | Aug 3, 2008 1:20:30 AM

If possible please email list of "Dr. Fish Pedicures" in the San Francsisco, East Bay and or Northern California area ...Thanks!

Posted by: Vida | Aug 1, 2008 12:26:36 PM

Please email me the nearest location near Modesto CA. Thanks, Cecelia

Posted by: Cecelia | Aug 1, 2008 2:06:43 AM


Posted by: MONA | Jul 31, 2008 1:55:06 AM

montreal is there a locatiion for fish pedicure here?

If not can't we open one here


Paul Pigeon

Posted by: paul | Jul 28, 2008 12:42:55 PM

>>>Fort Mill SC, is there a location for a fish pedicure here?

Yes. Go to any of the THOUSANDS of trailer parks, and there you will find mullet wearing retard rednecks
just willing to chew on your feet if you wave a Confederate flag and burp in their faces.

Posted by: Laughing AtYou | Jul 26, 2008 2:45:17 PM

ok i am tired of being laughed at. where can i get a fish pedicure in the
Philadelphia area?

Posted by: dfb | Jul 25, 2008 2:28:27 PM

Fort Mill SC, is there a location for a fish pedicure here?

Posted by: susan jacobson | Jul 24, 2008 12:12:15 PM

This is now starting to get publicity in the US. Diane Sawyer had a salon from Virginia on. Check out the video.


Posted by: thesportsaffiliate | Jul 23, 2008 5:44:23 PM

is thier a place in california

Posted by: robert | Jul 22, 2008 8:26:49 PM



Posted by: | Feb 3, 2007 7:43:17 AM

We are a professional doctor fish (it is also called Garra Rufa fish0.the fish can treat well skin-illness. and massage body of people,clean skin-trash on body of people.

Our doctor fish's quality is very good, and our price is very low. We can deliver the fish to any place of world.

If you need our doctor fish, please contact me:
[email protected]
Sales Manager:Jack He

Posted by: Jack He | Dec 31, 2006 1:38:48 AM

Hmmm, wonder how well they'd work for diabetic foot ulcers? Might knock those pesky maggots off their perch.

Posted by: jim | Dec 17, 2006 11:54:53 AM

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