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Orange County ITINERARY

Beach Retreat

Satisfy hunger, muscles and the inner child in Anaheim.

March 12, 1998|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

You can have a ball at Beach and Ball--Beach Boulevard and Ball Road in Anaheim, that is. Have a deeply satisfying massage at Nippon Shiatsu Spa, enjoy Japanese and Chinese dishes at Lai Lai Ken, then choose your favorite banana sauce at Filipino Mini Mart. You also can check out action figures including Gilligan, Grumpy and GI Joe at Len & Kathy's Collectible Toys.

MORNING 1

Nippon Shiatsu Spa specializes in the acupressure massage known as shiatsu. Take off your shoes, take a towel and shorts, take a locker. Begin in the modest gym if you like; there's even a tiny putting green! In the next room are showers, foot-washing stations and a sauna; mistaking the cold pool for the hot pool can be a rude awakening. Orange juice is offered while you cool down in the shiatsu waiting room, where piano music by composers whose names also start with shh--Schubert, Schumann, Chopin--were playing recently. (Just coincidence--later it was Liszt.)

The most memorable feature of shiatsu is that the practitioners work your back with their knees for part of the time. Depending on muscle tone, you might feel pleasantly worked, or as if you've been hit by a Mack truck. Want to know what they were doing? Look at the chart called "Distribution of Shiatsu Therapy Total Basic Pressure Points."

Reservations are recommended, although walk-in appointments are possible. Package No. 1, $45, includes shower, hot bath, cold bath, sauna, gym and 45-minute shiatsu. Without massage, it's $14; massage alone is $40. (Prices less for members.) Bath hours for women are limited to 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

LUNCH 2

The owner of Lai Lai Ken, Charles Chou, is Chinese; his wife, Toyoko, is Japanese, hence the dual cuisines. Lai Lai Ken has been open for 11 years, but before that Charles Chou ran a restaurant in Tokyo for 21 years. In addition to standard noodle and kung pao dishes, Lai Lai Ken offers a few out-of-the-ordinary choices. Among Chinese appetizers, for instance, cold aged egg ($3.50) is encased in gelatin, practically black and gooey at the center. "A lot of people think that's a bad egg," said waitress Jenny Metoyer. Japanese side orders include sauteed liver and leek ($5.25), but it easily serves as a main course. An English-language kung fu movie plays on the television overhead.

AFTERNOON 3, 4

Also at the center are Panaderia La Mexicana (a bakery), Tom's Tacos, Beach and Ball Comics and Outer Limits Tattoo and Piercing.

Len & Kathy's Collectible Toys applies the antique-mall concept to toys with 60 vendors under one roof. A posted sign says "Absolutely no running in store, parents must hold their children's hand."

Action figures include a whole case of "Star Wars" characters and posable limited-edition "Gilligan's Island" character dolls. One vendor must have at least 101 Dalmatians for sale, at $6 to $8 per pup. Spice Girls "official merchandise" apparently is already collectible, while a tiny plastic Ringo Starr with hairpiece is very collectible at $475.

A naked GI Joe knockoff is $3; GI Joe in Deep Freeze is $150. "My daughter collects Bashful," confided Rhonda Gonzales of Anaheim. "She doesn't care about the rest of the dwarfs." Gonzales found no Bashfuls but did notice Grumpy playing a golden organ ($250).

Len sold Len & Kathy's when Kathy died; the new owner is named Kathy too--Kathy Hehn.

Len Schiada still owns Len's Used Tools next door; one sign says "buy, sell, consign," another said "closed" on two recent visits. A peek through the front window reveals a "Rad Rex" Rad Board (a three-part skateboard resembling a centipede on its haunches). You'll also find a huge drill press and other such machine-shop equipment not far from a stack of small baskets provided "for your shopping convenience."

You can find about a dozen banana sauces at friendly Filipino Mini Mart and Video, almost as many sauteed shrimp pastes, and canned corned beef from Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. Instant soups include "rice porridge with corn in cocomilk." Friday through Sunday, the shop sells pork barbecue sticks for $1.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

1) Nippon Shiatsu Spa

3024 W. Ball Road, (714) 995-6936.

Open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

2) Lai Lai Ken

3024 W. Ball Road, (714) 952-4217.

Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Monday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday.

3) Len & Kathy's Collectible Toys

1215 S. Beach Blvd., Suite E, (714) 995-4151.

Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.

4) Filipino Mini Mart and Video

1215 S. Beach Blvd., Suite B, (714) 821-1887.

Open 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.

Buses: OCTA Bus No. 29 (Brea-Huntington Beach) runs along Beach Boulevard; Bus No. 46 (Orange-Hawaiian Gardens) runs along Ball Road.

Parking: There is free parking in lots at each location.

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