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LAist gets whisked away in a Japanese Enzyme Bath

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Over the holiday weekend, while most people were watching Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning flee from aliens, LAist visited a new day spa in Santa Monica, and had a very earthly experience.

The Willow Spa in Santa Monica is housed in a fully restored and refurbished California style bungalow that at one time was home to both a beauty salon, and a gun shop. At the same time. Only in Los Angeles, right? "Hi Betsy, I'll get a permanent wave and throw in a .38 Special please. How are the kids?" The current owners are, thankfully, a lot more Zen in their approach, and they have made the spa a small slice of Nirvana just off of Santa Monica Boulevard. Once inside, you'd never know you were just a few feet off of one of Los Angeles' busiest streets.

LAist booked their unique "Japanese Enzyme Bath" treatment which is new to the area. This is a dry bath that consists of a combination of finely cut Juniper shavings, rice bran, and fruit and vegetable enzymes. Upon arriving (and finding street parking, what a singular joy), we were given sandals to slip on, and guided to the changing areas. For the bath you are instructed to bring an old swimsuit, but upon arrival we were also told that you could choose to wear your birthday suit as well. Never one to spoil a good swimsuit, LAist went all in, so that we could bring the best possible story to you, dear reader.

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We shucked our clothes and were given "loungewear" which resembled something Bruce Lee might have worn when facing down hordes of enemies. We were shown to the garden area, and given tea and an enzyme drink. The tea was nice and hot, and the enzyme drink was strange and syrupy, but sweet like honey. Down the hatch!

After chilling for a bit and enjoying the relaxing music and afternoon sun, we were taken into the bath area. This is a low, dimly lit structure behind the main spa house, and is done in a Japanese style. There are severals baths and a shower inside, and relaxing music and fresh air are piped in. We were shown to our "bath", which looks like square tub filled with soil. Once you situate yourself into a reclining position, your bath attendant will liberally coat your body with the soil until you are buried up to your neck in the stuff. And this isn't any normal soil, it's very toasty warm Japanese enzyme soil.

It's very easy to bliss out and lose track of time while "soaking" in the enzymes, and we did just that. The attendants check in on you from time to time, supplying water and patting your face dry (and believe us, you will sweat liberally). After 20 minutes you are taken into another area where you are brushed free of the soil, and then are guided into the shower where you can get the rest of it off (it takes awhile). Then, it's back to the garden for more tea and relaxation. They really like tea at this place. Then, to top things off, you are given a 30 minute Thai massage session in a warm, comfortable room (we wanted to know if we could move in) while wearing headphones and listening to more calming music.

It was pure heaven. Granted, we were wondering if we were being planted during the bath part of the treatment, or if we had been hoodwinked into believing this was a special soil, while Manny and Fred were out back digging up a fresh batch, but our skin really was glowing and healthy looking afterwards. It also made us feel very energetic and awake, which is always a bonus. We heartily recommend booking a treatment there as early as possible. Right now the Willow Spa is offering 2 for 1 Japanese Bath treatments, which means you and a friend can go and split the difference. The treatment is $80, so two people get it for $40 each, and this is a bargain several times over. We were there for over two and a half hours, and at most LA spas you'd be spending well over $200 for that much peace and relaxation.

Give them a call and check it out for yourselves. You'll be glad you did.

Willow Spa
3127 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Phone: (310) 453-9004
Fax: (310) 453-9014