What do Jessica Alba, Bella Thorne, Mindy Kaling, and I all have in common? Not much, as it turns out, except for this one thing: We have all experienced the single greatest massage in Los Angeles.В
What on earth is this heavenly celeb-approved massage? It's a good question, considering it's one ofВ the beauty world's best-kept secrets, so mysterious and underground that even the most tuned-in beauty gurus have never even heard of it. The massage happens at Tomoko Spa, a Japanese retreat tucked behind a nondescript exterior in Beverly Hills. From the outside, Tomoko looks like a typicalВ office building (save for its unassuming logo), but a five-star, utterly transportive experience sits within.В
Intrigued? So was I. See, I consider myself pretty clicked into L.A.'s spa scene. Massages are my beauty vice-I probably get 10 a year, even though I don't have a high-stress jobВ or exercise enough to earn it. So a few weeks ago, when one of my fanciest friends asked me if I'd ever heard of Tomoko, home to the massage that Jessica Alba swears by, I was shocked that I hadn't.В
Immediately, I looked into the place, and once I found out what it was all about, I knewВ I had to go there. Want to find out what happens within the wallsВ ofВ this secretВ spa? Just keep scrolling.Tessa Neustadt
Massage, Pray, Love
There's a reason Tomoko Spa is such a mysterious place. It first opened in 2014, and the owner, Tomoko Kurono, specifically designed itВ to be discreet-the type of place you could truly disappear into, both body and mind.
Kurono first set out to discoverВ the "perfect" spa experience back in 1999. She traveled all over the world in search of what she calls "a massage that could truly remove negative energyВ from her body and renew her spirit." When she couldn't find it, she decided to createВ it herself.
Kurono's approach to massage is as spiritual as it is physical. Growing up in Osaka, Japan, her mother was her village's healer and raised her to have "a deep understanding of the healing powers of Chi (blood) and Qi (energy)." During her world travels, KuronoВ found many talented massage therapists, but she didn't meet anyone who offered the combination of "technique and soul" that she'd been raised with. So, for the next nine years, she worked diligently to develop the signatureВ Tomoko Massage, a one-of-a-kindВ treatment that would not only heal physicalВ painВ but would also replenish the soul. For $210 an hour, that's what you get at Tomoko Spa.Tessa Neustadt
A Minimalist Universe
The difference in energy between the outside world and one foot inside the Tomoko Spa doors is remarkable. My fancy friend Sarah and I decided to book a couple's massage so we could experience itВ together. We were both instantly taken but the spa's pristine, minimalist aesthetic, designed to perfection by Thea Home Inc.В (Think: streamlined wood furnishings, white walls, and dim lighting.)
Upon entrance, Sarah and I were invited to swap our shoes for Japanese slippers; then, we were ushered into aВ waiting room, where a digital fireplace glowed in the background as we nibbledВ on fruit, Japanese jellies, and detox tea.
We filled out surveys, indicating what sort of pressure we prefer, whether or not we like to stretch, and if there are any areas we'd like to avoid or focus on. (I was impressed by how much we could customize the experience.) Having just returned from a 10-day hiking trip, I opted for a medium-pressure massage with minimal stretch, focused mostly on my upper back and feet.В
Once we were finished our welcome tea and horsВ d'oeuvres,В we were lead down a futuristic white corridor to our private massage room, where the real magic was soon to come.Tessa Neustadt
The Massage Before the Massage
One of the most decadent things about the Tomoko experience is the miniВ massage that comes before the main event. After entering the massage suite, we changed into twin oversize robes (not unlike this one from Urban Outfitters), after which two serene massage therapists delivered a detoxifying foot bathВ or Ashiyu.В
We sipped on warm ginger tea, known to help reduce inflammation and soreness, as our masseuses performed a foot massage so relaxing, even the squirmiest, most ticklish guests would loveВ it.Tessa Neustadt
Massage Meets Meditation
The Tomoko couple's massageВ comes inВ 60-, 80-, and 100-minute time slots, priced at $420, $540, and $660, respectively. This signature massage is different for everyone, depending on your requests from the survey. While some guests receive a more intense, stretch-centric massage, Sarah and I were looking for pure relaxation.
To me, the mark of a good massage is when the therapist can read your body better than you can. For 60 minutes, my massage therapist discovered sore muscles in my back and neck that I didn't even know I had, kneading them with the pitch-perfect amount of pressure. At one point, she literally climbed on top of me, balancing on all fours to deliver optimum pressure to my upper and lower back. Throughout the entire massage, I teetered on the edge of either sleep or deep meditation.В
By the time our massages were over, Sarah and I felt like we'd melted into a puddle. Out of the 50 or 60В massages I've had over the course of my life, this one was undoubtedly the most luxurious, spiritual, and effective.
After our massage therapists bid us farewell,В Sarah and IВ climbed into aВ Japanese Ofuro bath (I believe this was supposed to be the romantic part of the couple's massage, but we just had a good laugh and did it anyway). This meditative bath is a centuries-old Japanese ritual for eliminating physical and mental toxins. We sipped on complimentary Fiji waterВ as any leftover maladies soaked away.Emily Knecht
The Price of Luxury
For an extra $210, you can end your Tomoko couple's massage with a decadent sushi spread from Los Angeles hot spot вЂњSugar Fish." SinceВ Sarah and I don't care for sushi, we skipped dinner and were instead served a refreshing plate of detox water and fruit.
Sarah and I left the spa with a tiny piece of Tomoko serenity in our bones, as well as a deep understanding of why celebrities like Jessica AlbaВ love the place so much. Though the price is high, it awards you something one-of-a-kind: a five-star experience that heals an aching soul, as much as it heals an aching body.В
What's the best massage you've ever gotten? Tell us about it in the comments below!