6 Japanese style bathhouses to visit in the United States.
Luxurious places for a soak and sauna session are popping up around the United States. Here are seven to check out.
Although many cultures have their own wellness traditions, almost all of them have this in common: People love to soak and sweat. Today’s urban bathhouses meld these ancient practices with modern-day sensibilities, borrowing from Russian banyas, Turkish hammams, Korean jjimjilbangs, Finnish saunas, Greek and Roman baths, and Japanese sentos. All aim to promote self-care and good health through variations on soaks, steams, saunas, and community. And maybe because the world of late has been, well, taxing, we’ve seen these oases spring up in the United States, with offerings as diverse as the country itself. From a former mobster hangout in Detroit to ancient-style baths where you can soak in wine, here are six recently opened bathhouses to visit now—plus one you can plan on checking out in the near future.
San Francisco, CA
Opened: November 2016
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Despite its name, this San Francisco haven is more akin to a sento, the indoor Japanese bathhouses heated the electric way (in Japan, onsens baths are geothermically heated by the country’s plentiful volcanic activity). That distinction doesn’t diminish Onsen’s charm, however, which aims to feed both your soul and your body. A teahouse serves sake on tap and light bites like a shiitake and yuzu soft egg custard and an octopus skewer that won’t leave you feeling too heavy before heading to the tub, steam room, sauna, and cold plunge. Also offered are such treatments as massage, cupping, and reflexology. Should you fall in love with the space, a buyout for a private spa party can also be arranged.
Asha Urban Baths
Sacramento, CAOpened: November 2016
A serene zone in bustling Sacramento, Asha is a fully coed space designed for unplugging and unwinding, with staff committed to keeping the volume level calm—they ring a gong if you get too loud. Bathhouse amenities include a soaking pool, cold plunge, sauna, and lounge with add-ons, including massage, yoga, and skin care products. Several packages are available, including monthly unlimited passes and a “Personal Day of Retreat,” which comes with juice, a yoga class, and use of the bathhouse.
Brooklyn, NYOpened: November 2015
Brooklyn’s CityWell positions itself as an affordable wellness oasis in the city, a place for preventive health care and healing through its steam room, hot stone massage, fire pit, and customized aromatherapy, as well as a soaking tub and cedar sauna. Housed in an industrial part of Brooklyn, close to the murky Gowanus canal, CityWell is an indoor-outdoor sanctuary (weather permitting, of course). Owner Liz Tortolani credits its popularity to natural outdoor elements and the soaking tub, both of which are rare in Brooklyn. Not rare in Brooklyn: yoga classes, which CityWell also offers, on its outdoor platform.
There are no tubs or plunge pools at Löyly’s two Portland locations, but they do offer another way to relieve stress: minimal, Scandinavian-style saunas. Many cultures, from the ancient Mayans to modern-day Finns, tapped into this sweat-inducing treatment for its detox, circulation, and sleep benefits. Upon entering the saunas at Löyly, you’ll be given a small towel, or pefletti, to place on the bench, as well as a larger towel for drying off or wearing. Then, sit in the heat—löyly is the Finnish word for the steam that occurs when water touches hot sauna rocks—and sweat out the toxins. Facilities can be booked up to two hours at a time, with massages, facials, foot soaks, and body scrubs also available.
Aire Ancient Baths
Chilly Chicago nights are welcome if it means a visit to this opulent bathhouse in the style of Ottoman, Greek, and Roman traditions, occupying a restored factory built in 1902. Candlelight flickers off of exposed brick, wooden beams, and industrial columns as you soak in baths of different temperatures at your own pace, adding on massages and treatments employing argan oil, Himalayan salt, and olive oil. For true decadence, opt for the wine experience, where you’ll be submerged in an antique Venetian well filled with tempranillo while simultaneously enjoying a craniofacial massage.
Detroit, MIReopened, November 2017
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The only historic bathhouse left in Detroit comes with a storied and notorious past: Originally opened 1930 for the Russian-Jewish population, it quickly became tied to the Jewish bootlegging and hijacking mob known as the Purple Gang. In later decades bookkeepers and gamblers used it as their hangout, and in the 1980s it garnered a reputation as a swingers club, with porn screenings held regularly. Today, the space—renovated and reopened late 2017—retains its original sense of community, with events like movie screenings and most recently, a meta one-man show about the Jewish bathhouse storytelling tradition.
Sōku Soakhouse & Spa
Opening: Winter 2018/early 2019
Slated to open this winter, Sōku in Austin draws from both Japanese and European tradition. Natural bamboo elements will greet you as you drop into hot and cold pools, saunas, private soaking rooms, and showers that open to spacious Japanese gardens. The indoor-outdoor venue will also feature an open-air pool, juice bar, and café.
The best part of these bathhouses? It’s nearly impossible to use your phone when enjoying them (and often not allowed). Next time you’re in need of a digital detox and some relaxation time, seek out one of these urban sanctuaries.