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I guess you could say I’ve visited a lot of spas—for a guy. I’m really into massages: I sit most of the day, my posture isn’t great, I exercise often. And, let’s be honest, I love treating myself.
At first I was only interested in high-end spas: immaculate changing rooms, saunas, steam rooms, plush robes, orchids on every surface—the whole thing. As I got older (and “needed” massages more and more often), I was turned onto the classic Chinese massage parlor, the kind of nondescript, slightly dingy places you see dotted around New York City. Painful and no frills—I loved it. I like getting beat up, it feels like it’s working, and the price is always right (somewhere around $50). A lot of my favorite spots even offer cupping and acupuncture, two things that really work for relaxation or managing pain, for just a few extra bucks.
Now that I’m used to a bare-bones, drop-in setting, it takes a lot to justify spending three digits on one—even more to recommend you do the same. But if ever there were a spa that was worth it, really, really worth it, it’s Shibui Spa at the Greenwich Hotel, which I recently went to for the first time. I had heard about the Shibui—friends and acquaintances had raved about it to me since it first opened to the public in 2012. I’d heard stories of the 250-year-old deconstructed Japanese farmhouse, imported in pieces and reconstructed by hand in the basement of Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Hotel; it sounded like something worth checking out. My wife was out of town for my birthday, so she gifted me the 60-minute Healing Birch massage.
The waiting room is actually a small pool area, lit by dim lanterns, and the farmhouse belongs in a museum. It was rebuilt without nails, just wooden pegs and an ancient knot-tying technique known to only three people in Japan (they’re considered national living treasures). It was empty, still, and peaceful—hard to believe I was still in Manhattan, and actually kind of spectacular. I didn’t want to leave, but the treatment room (one of only four) was candlelit, with a soaking tub in the corner as a nod to the Japanese Onsen bathing ritual. The massage itself was both effective and pleasant; the masseuse used a homemade balm of shea butter, jojoba, helichrysum, and birch oil to reduce inflammation. (As if that’s not enough, you can retreat to the hotel’s tranquil garden post-treatment and order from their amazing restaurant.) I I floated home feeling very good.