japanese bathhouse japanese bathhouse Yubatake, a hot springs source that brings hot water to bathhouses in Japan. (Photo: CK Ma/Shutterstock)

I went to an Asian bathhouse in Queens, and here’s what happened

From New York to Israel, people like me are discovering Eastern-style baths and saunas.

Baths are healthy – people even slather themselves in mud at bathhouses to treat conditions like skin disorders, back pain, fibromyalgia and arthritis. They're also really, really relaxing.

Perhaps that's why it's not surprising that Asian bathhouses and spas are becoming popular around the world. Israel's Tomoko Spa, for instance, started when a Japanese woman moved from Japan to Israel and opened a successful spa. She's now opening up a second location in Los Angeles.

As a journalist and lover of baths, I knew I had to investigate this important trend to bring the truth to the masses. I found an Asian bathhouse in Queens called the Spa Castle, and I decided to check it out.

Spa CastleWine, beer and cocktails with cool names were all available for sale. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

The place was like the Disneyland of spas. When I checked in, I got what looked like a plastic watch. The watch could open my locker and let me pay for food and drinks, so I wouldn't have to carry my wallet around with me through the baths. It was a pretty nice touch.

Spa Castle earned its name; it was quite the palace, featuring three floors full of baths and saunas. I went straight to the spa's major attraction: the giant rooftop bath. Indeed, it was big, beautiful and full of jets. A surprisingly empty hot tub decorated like an ancient Roman palace sat on one side.

I went inside and found another bath, where I ordered a cool cocktail at the bar and sipped it in the water – tables were built into the pool.

Spa CastleThere was plenty of space for large parties. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

After coming out of the warm water, I started to get chilly. Fortunately, I could choose between a salt sauna, a gold sauna and a jade sauna. Of course, I chose them all. And when that got too hot, I stepped into the ice room, which had actual ice on its sides.

The food and drinks were expensive, but not that expensive for New York. I filled a plate full of food from the salad bar and had a bit of some of the most delicious chocolate cake I've ever tasted (a food I'm told can help people lose weight). The selection was great, a mix of American and Asian food.

The spa also offered massages, reflexology, Korean body scrubs and hydrotherapy baths, which I did not partake in. Spa Castle brands itself as a mix of European and Asian spas, and the owners seem to have done a pretty good job fulfilling that promise. It was easily one of the most luxurious places I'd ever been.

Spa CastleThe cafeteria had a salad bar and a bunch of Korean food. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

While there were people of all ages there, I definitely noticed quite a few fellow young adults. I asked some how they'd gotten into Asian spas, and it turned out that a lot of them had discovered them through international travel, one by actually working and living in Japan.

Perhaps that's why young adults are into these spas — millennials travel a lot: they go on an average of nine business and personal trips a year, according to an Expedia study. And a Topdeck Travel survey found that they travel more to experience local cultures than to shop or party. Perhaps they're finding cool things abroad and bringing them back home.

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