Let's get this out of the way first: Imperial Day Spa is a very naked place. Leave your inhibitions at the door and your glasses in your locker (or your soggy robe pocket if you really need them to get around!).
There is also a dry spa that I did not explore.
What is it?
Imperial is a Korean-style day spa with access to a sauna, steam room, and hot/cold plunge tubs. A scrub is the most invigorating part of the process and will leave you feeling cleaner than anytime in your life.
My companion Whitney reports that she nearly laughed out loud during the long, involved treatment. “Everything that was done to me was more surprising than the thing before it. I think the woman poured milk on me. And then, she washed my hair!”
The scrub treatment we did together involves lying on hard, wet tables in a communal treatment room, having one's skin deeply exfoliated from head to toe, and armpit to armpit. It includes an oil massage and a mini-facial. A wet towel may be laid across your bathing suit parts, but there's not much privacy. You should also know that the women performing these services on you are wearing nothing but black bras, black undies and pool sandals. It's not a sexy thing; it's practical. They're standing in a damp environment, using water as a tool to wash away all your dead cells. No point in wearing pants to work when this is your job.
The staff will give you a robe, but after soaking and steaming, you and the robe will be a hot damp mess.
How much does it cost?
Packages range from $60 to $140 and all include scrub and access to the rest of the spa. For $90 you can also get an oil massage. If you're in full-on “it's my birthday” celebration mode, splurge for one of the purification packages (and let me know if you liked it). Double-check prices here for the wet spa.
Is it worth the drive?
Do you need a break from your everyday routine? Nestled in a small strip mall near the Fillmore, emerging raw and scrubbed in broad daylight was a bit surreal. I have yet to find a similar experience in the East Bay, so, for now, I say that it is worth it. Street parking was easy to find when we went, but I doubt that is always the case.
[Photo credit: Whitney Moss]