SPA REVIEWS: Japanese-style Spas

Spa Relakin's Hot Rock baths
Spa Relakin's Hot Rock baths

The Hot Stone Room

Ganban-yoku (bedrock baths) enable spa-goers to “bathe” by reclining on a stone bed in a heated room—no water involved. The stones contain natural ore and, when heated, their far-infrared reach purportedly promotes detoxifying perspiration, deep relaxation, enhanced circulation and energy flow, a stronger immune system and even weight loss.

Spa Relaken has created a hot stone room made of a rare natural mineral ore harvested from the mountainous Kyushu region. Inside, guests don loose wrap tops and pajama pants and lounge on large towels spread out over the stones. The Japanese see ganban-yoku as an opportunity for a social gathering, where friends and family members can repose together and chat.   

The Enzyme Bath

The Japanese developed the enzyme bath in 1940, but the treatment became popularized in the 1970s when Japanese athletes used it in preparation for the Winter Olympic games. This dry bath is created from finely shaved cedar, rice bran, and fruit and vegetable enzymes which, when combined, ferment, creating a natural heat of 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Bathers relax in a wooden tub as a therapist covers them up to the neck with the mixture.

Reeves, whose Willow Spa houses one of two enzyme baths in America, says that the dry heat brings about myriad health benefits, including natural detoxification, an increased metabolic heart rate and a circulation boost to help improve skin tone, elasticity and texture. An added benefit: A 20-minute “dip” can stimulate the body’s ability to burn calories—”as much as rowing or jogging for 30 minutes,” Reeves reports. 

To create the Willow’s enzyme bath, the spa partners had to invest in extensive research, find a Japanese expert who understood this esoteric treatment, and import the enzymes used in the mix—no cheap undertaking. But the bath is often booked to capacity on weekends, and has helped position the facility as a therapeutic spa. “It is our signature treatment and has gotten us a lot of attention,” says Reeves. “It has become central to our mission as a spa.” 
To lend this traditional treatment a modern spin, Willow incorporates other pan-Asian touches, including a pre-treatment enzyme drink and ginger tea, and a post-bath Thai leg stretch.