You don’t have to go to Japan to experience a Japanese bath. Head over to Japantown, near the Kabuki Hotel and the Best Western Tomo. The Kabuki Hot Springs (1750 Geary Boulevard) is different than any spa you’ll find in San Francisco.
While the Kabuki offers traditional spa services (massage, facials, body treatments, and acupuncture), its communal baths can be just as relaxing. After depositing your clothes in the locker room, you’ll enter the serene bathing area. There, in dimmed lights, you’ll find a dry sauna, steam room, hot pool, cold plunge pool, Western-style showers (with curtains), and a seated, Japanese-style bathing area. Take a bowl of salt (provided) and scrub your body, rinsing off with a hand-held sprayer. But don’t make the mistake of shaving before you arrive — that salt can sting!
Between bathing and jumping in the pools, you can relax on wooden recliners, sipping tea and cooling off with chilled-cucumber washcloths. The room is quiet; some people read magazines, others just rest their eyes. Stay an hour, or stay all day. It’s only $22-$25 ($15 if you get a treatment also). All the amenities you’d expect from a spa are there: shampoos, soaps, combs, lotions, towels, and more.
The baths are reserved on alternate days for men and women, so there’s no need to worry about dropping your towel in front of the opposite sex. Men use the baths on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, while it’s reserved for the ladies on Wednesday, Fridays, and Sundays. As for Tuesdays: it’s co-ed (don’t worry, clothing is required).
[Photo 1 Credit: Cesar Rubio]
[Photo 2 Credit: Frankie Frankeny]