You’ll get naked most likely. But with the canopy of the Pisgah National Forest in your sight, and snugged-in by the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll hardly feel exposed as you sink into one of the outdoor private hot tubs at Shoji Spa & Lodge, a Japanese-style bathhouse and spa in Asheville, North Carolina. While $50 million luxury-pampering retreats have their place, the spa at the Grove Park Inn this is not. This onsen, (the term for hot springs in Japanese, though it also describes the tubs and inns around the springs) is more rustic, more Shogun, more . . . Asheville than that. As is the custom before a soak in Japan, you’ll first shower. Then, an hour in your very own private outdoor hot tub awaits you, where you can upgrade your visit to have hot tea or sake with other snacks delivered tub-side. Next, sit in the dry cedar sauna or take a cool plunge— or do both, what they call “contrasting therapies.”
Also therapeutic? A Shoji massage with some of the best hands in the business. The menu of spa services is as enticingly exotic and delicious-sounding as any sushi menu. Try a lemongrass sake moisturizing hand treatment, yuzu (Japanese grapefruit) oil massage, a tea tree oil scalp treatment, or even the exfoliating dry skin brushing to detox the multitude of sins your skin and system endure.
Katie Edwards, licensed acupuncturist and owner of the Center of Bliss in Greenville went with her fiancé for the Double the Fun couples package. “It made me feel like I was on a week- long vacation because I felt so relaxed and rejuvenated after leaving,” says Edwards. “Shoji is unique in their offerings. They let you have the ability to spend quiet time with yourself or the ones you love. Their hot tubs are very private and you feel like you are able to get away from everything to just rest.”
Shoji is only minutes from downtown Asheville, but the winding road up to the spa and Japanese-like setting with elements of wood, metal, and fire make it feel miles away from anything. There is something so sublime about soaking in a froth of warm water, staring up at the pristine sky and smelling wood smoke all at once.
If you’re too melted to move, Shoji offers overnight accommodations including the Shoji Loft (sleeps two), Lodge (sleeps six), and the Studio (sleeps four) with prices ranging from $175 to $249—though a day trip, with an hour- long hot tub soak, including the cedar sauna and cold plunge will cost just $42. This art of soaking might be an ancient one, but for our modern world, it’s a bit of bliss that is so very au courant.