Couple of years ago I was in Japan around the New Year. I visited a friend on my way back from Australia. It was a short trip, just for a few days. Anyway, when I arrived my friend said we had to start the New Year with a bang.
“You must take a sake bath!”
I thought I misheard what he said and asked him to repeat.
“Yes,” he said, smiling, “I think you would love it.”
It never occurred to me you could actually bathe in alcohol. In Japan, and other Japanese-friendly cultures, taking a sake bath is totally normal. You generally do it around the New Year to ward off evil and to have a cleaner year ahead. Sake, which is a traditional liquor made from rice, is actually called nihonshu (literally “Japanese liquor”) in Japan.
The next day we visited a local spa and I had my first sake bath. I was actually dealing with jet lag (I was only in Australia for a few days, and I was in India before), and it was the perfect medicine. I felt totally relaxed.
“Sake is good for your skin,” said my friend, showing me a book on the subject, “I’ve always taken sake baths. We have many products in Japan that now contain basic ingredients of sake.”
Apparently, it was the geishas who used sake to replenish their skin after wearing heavy make-up. The general Japanese society has since discovered that sake bathing fights aging, skin spots, and promotes overall healthier skin. There have been studies that linked sake to the repairing, treating and nourishing of the skin.
Many western cities have Japanese (or Japanese style) spas. More and more you can order a sake bath. At the Shibui Spa in New York City you must order massage or facial, and then have the sake as an add-on. You can’t just book a sake bath as a stand alone service. However, the added bath will last around 30-minutes and costs $95 for one or $120 for two.
AJ Paris is a New York based photographer and the author Men Around the World.