By Cassy Fiano-Chesser
Muriel Hattori is a world traveler who has made her home on the First Coast, and she did so with a splash. A massage therapist who has worked with many athletes, Hattori’s brand of “Muriel Magic” has won Folio Weekly’s “Best Of” award for massage therapist four times. She’s also lived on two different continents and numerous countries before settling down in Ponte Vedra, somewhere she never thought she would grow to love — but ultimately did.
1. Tell me about yourself.
I’ve been a massage therapist for almost 30 years, and I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. I went down to live in Los Angeles, where I met my husband. My husband was transferred to Ponte Vedra Beach with his job, and I have to say, I did come reluctantly. I had a wonderful clientele and business in Los Angeles, and it had taken a long time to build it up, so to come to a brand new city where we didn’t know anyone was a little bit difficult. Also, it was a rude awakening to come to a little town like Ponte Vedra. This was in 1993, so it was very different from what I was used to. It took us a long time to get used to it, but we’re here now, and we love it, and we’re here to stay. I’m also very lucky to have a wonderful son and daughter. My son lives here in Jacksonville and my daughter lives in Los Angeles. I have two happy children, and you can’t ask for more than that.
2. What do you love about living in Ponte Vedra Beach?
I have to be really honest, it was very difficult in the beginning for us. But we worked through the hard parts, we met a lot of nice people, and things have changed here. I’ve become very used to the quieter lifestyle, the fact that we don’t have the crazy traffic that we found in Los Angeles. I always said that when I decided to retire, I probably would return to California. But we go back to visit every year, to see family, and my daughter still lives out there. Yet every time we go, I always think, “Ah, it’s so nice to come home to Ponte Vedra.” It’s such an easier, quieter way of life, and we have everything here.
- How did you become interested in massage therapy?
Initially, I started learning acupuncture. I found out I really did not like needles. But I learned how to do acupuncture, and it turned out to be hard for the American population to accept the idea of it. Acupuncture was not that well known at the time, and I wanted to find something that would make it easier, so I went in to shiatsu massage, which basically is a kind of theory. You use the same meridians, the same energies. From that, I blossomed out, and I got very lucky and met a lot of wonderful people. My work just kind of took off, and I ended up working with professional sports people, almost from day one. I was able to get a connection with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and that started off my career in Ponte Vedra. I was the therapist for people like Tom Coughlin, but I didn’t work just with the Jaguars; I worked with many teams. I also worked with Steve Spurrier, Jerry Rice, Keenan McCardell, and also PGA tour players.
- Did you always intend to work with athletes?
No, I just got lucky. But I like being able to help heal people. If you think of a football player, they’re playing hard, and their bodies are in pain every single week. So what I try to do is help relieve some of that pain, and help them heal faster. So now, when they’re hurting, they call and tell me they need some of that “Muriel Magic” — that’s what they call it.
5. What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?
I’m at the latter part of my career now; I used to work seven days a week. But now I’m slowing down, and my husband and I travel every chance we get. We’re having a little bit of the best time of our lives now. I’ve been very fortunate; I’ve traveled all around the world, and I just go wherever I can. There’s no bad place to go really, right?
Photo courtesy Muriel Hattori