To say that a trip was “life changing” is undoubtably hackneyed, but I am at a loss for a better expression to capture my last visit to Tokyo. Ranking number one as the most populated metropolitan in the world, the sprawling expanse is almost three times the land area of the greater New York City area and boasts over 13.6 million people. A city this large you would think would be sheer chaos, point and case Mumbai, which clocks in at a little under 12 million people, but it’s not. This undulating city has the ease of a Balanchine. The people, buses, taxi cabs, and life in Tokyo flows with organized grace: patient lines form at subway platforms, cars almost never use aggressive horn honking in traffic, and everyone knows (minus clunky tourists) to stand on the right side of escalators allowing for passing stair climbers.

The Japanese are prideful people, but not the kind of pride reminiscent of Mr. Darcy or your friend who can never seem to muster those two simple words – “I’m sorry.” Their pride is embedded in a dedication to excellence, upholding tradition and consideration for others, nature and themselves. I still remember on our first day in the city watching an old Japanese man drop a small paper receipt and chase it as it blew in the wind out of grasp for three minutes before ultimately catching it and throwing it away, or the pride taxi cab drivers take in presenting themselves in suits, white gloves and caps, while keeping their cabs immaculate. It’s a beautiful city of grace, contrasts and pride.


Now, if you’re ever in Los Angeles and find a twelve hour flight to my favorite “life changing” city impossible, I highly suggest you experience Tomoko Spa for a taste of Japan in Beverly Hills. From the moment you step into the Los Angeles spa, its minimal space, designed by Thea Home, will take your breath away. Your shoes will be taken in exchange for slippers, and you’ll be ushered into a sitting area to enjoy the fireplace, sip green tea and munch on Japanese delicacies, like mango cream-filled mochi, lychee jellies and chocolates; you may forget you’re still in the city of angels.

The service rivals any top spa, but has the added touches of Japanese customs: there is no checking in or out at a front desk instead all transactions are hand delivered to you as you sit in the ryokan-like sitting area; each treatment room offers private amenities (shower or tub and organic toiletries), so your experience is one of complete privacy, no communal changing rooms here; and guests can opt for in-room sushi dining served on traditional tatami mats following their famous couple’s massage.

Every treatment begins with a foot soak and reflexology massage to open up the back muscles, while you sit in your kimono style bathrobe sipping warm persimmon tea. The spa menu consists of various massages blending components of Shiatsu, Thai, Hot Stone, and Swedish techniques. I chose the more athletic, deep tissue, Thai style Oriental Massage during my session at Tomoko and found myself fading away as hot stones were placed in my palms, warm oil poured on my back and finally, my limbs stretched every which way. The prices are a little steep (one hour sessions begin around $200), but definitely befitting of a spa this indulgent. And after all, it is cheaper than round-trip airfare to Tokyo.


-by Amy Chang
Image credit: Rani Sikorsky

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In NYC and looking to do some skin-prep before party season begins? Read, “NYC Beauty Guide – Part 1: The Best Facial” before you book anything.


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