Something Fishy…

“Dr Fish” originated in Japan, but it’s huge in Korea, and this is where I was first introduced to the concept of a “fish massage”. The idea is that you immerse your feet in a water tank filled with tiny toothless fishies (I believe they are mini carp), who nibble at your feet with the result of exfoliation, relaxation and removal of dead skin.

In modern day Korean society, this fits somewhere in between alternative therapies like acupuncture and moxa treatment; and quirky cafe culture such as “bird teahouses” where birds flutter around you as you enjoy a relaxing warm beverage.

There are plenty of opportunities to have a “Fish Massage” in any Korean city, and they are widely popular throughout Seoul. There was a lovely cafe in Chuncheon decorated with a collection of books and magazines, and with a wonderful speciality teas menu. As an extra, you have the option to enjoy all this with your feet dipped into a tank of adorable, and hungry, fish.

As the fish massage fad has now made it over to London, it does not seem so unusual. However I’m afraid that I was too much of a wimp to have ever tried it in Korea. Rumours circulated that the fish carried hepatitis, and the concept of a fish gnawing at my foot was so unfamiliar that I at least half-believed them.

Knowing how stringent UK health-and-safety is proves that in actuality there is little more to worry about than the question of hygiene. As an animal lover, I also wonder how ethical this is in terms of the fish themselves. Are they safe in there? Do they ever get stomped on? Do they actually eat the skin? Is this a good diet for them? I may never know the answers to these questions, so now need to decide whether or not I want to undergo a “fish massage”.

The difference between Korean and British “fish therapy” is the context. In London, this is a novelty: something you will possibly do once in your life (just so you can say you have) or an outing reserved for a special occasion. By contrast in Korea, there is a real belief in its health and beauty benefits, and is something that Koreans will participate in far more often.

My good friends recently went ahead with a London-based “fish massage”. They report the sensation as “tickly” and had a great time, with many laughs along the way. Whether the massage / exfoliation benefits are true remains debatable, but if nothing else, this should make for a fun day out, a fantastic story to tell, and some of the most interesting photo opportunities you may ever take. I am very tempted…

London Fish Therapy:

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