What on earth is this heavenly celeb-approved massage? It's a good question, considering it's one of 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 typical office building (save for its unassuming logo), but a five-star, utterly transportive experience sits within.
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 job 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.
Immediately, I looked into the place, and once I found out what it was all about, I knew I had to go there. Want to find out what happens within the walls of this secret spa? Just keep scrolling.
There's a reason Tomoko Spa is such a mysterious place. It first opened in 2014, and the owner, Tomoko Kurono, specifically designed it to be discreet—the type of place you could truly disappear into, both body and mind.
Kurono first set out to discover 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 energy from her body and renew her spirit." When she couldn't find it, she decided to create 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, Kurono 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 signature Tomoko Massage, a one-of-a-kind treatment that would not only heal physical pain but would also replenish the soul. For $210 an hour, that's what you get at Tomoko Spa.
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 it together. We were both instantly taken but the spa's pristine, minimalist aesthetic, designed to perfection by Thea Home Inc. (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 a waiting room, where a digital fireplace glowed in the background as we nibbled 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.
Once we were finished our welcome tea and hors d'oeuvres, we were lead down a futuristic white corridor to our private massage room, where the real magic was soon to come.
One of the most decadent things about the Tomoko experience is the mini 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 bath or Ashiyu.
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 love it.
The Tomoko couple's massage comes in 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.
By the time our massages were over, Sarah and I felt like we'd melted into a puddle. Out of the 50 or 60 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, Sarah and I climbed into a 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 water as any leftover maladies soaked away.
For an extra $210, you can end your Tomoko couple's massage with a decadent sushi spread from Los Angeles hot spot “Sugar Fish." Since 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 Alba 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.
What's the best massage you've ever gotten? Tell us about it in the comments below!