If there is one piece of advice we have for the holidays, it’s to give yourself the gift of a little downtime. I personally plan to be spending that downtown at Onsen. Recently opened in San Francisco, Onsen is a twist on the traditional Japanese bathhouses (aka onsens hence the name.) This Onsen offers a Japanese-inspired spa plus a chef-driven restaurant and tearoom (aka book your visit now.) And even if you aren’t local, check out the slideshow for Onsen’s unique blending of industrial and bohemian details with traditional Japanese style, and read on to learn more about how this unique and wonderful space came to be.
A space like Onsen only happens really creative and passionate people collaborate so it’s no surprise that behind the bathhouse is husband-and-wife team Sunny Simmons and Caroline Smith whose backgrounds perfectly lined up to create Onsen. Sunny says, “As a youth, my parents were visiting hot springs, so it was a big part of our lives growing up. It was how we vacationed. Then while traveling I got into communal bathing; it’s a neat thing you don’t see much in the United States. Caroline and I met a few years ago and started talking about this idea. She is an acupuncturist and it culminated into what it is now.” Onsen’s communal space offers ladies-only, men-only, and coed days, so you’ll be set no matter your bathing style and massage and acupuncture treatments will be available soon.
After your treatment, head to the front of Onsen where you can enjoy Japanese-influenced cuisine paired with on-tap, local sake, kombucha and Japanese beer. (Or just stop in for a meal or snack when you are in the area!) “I wanted to do tea and he wanted to do food,” Caroline recalls. Sunny agreed, “It was going to be a small food thing and a big tea thing but it ended up a big food thing and a small tea thing” thanks to liquor law requirements. As Caroline put, the couple decided, “Maybe we’ll just go deep with it.”
That flexibility is exactly what kept Sunny and Caroline going as they spent three years converting the former mechanic’s shop they purchased into a relaxing spa. Sunny says, “In a weird way, this project has been in the making for a very long time.” Much of the wood was collected throughout Sunny’s twenty years of doing construction and design and they were excited to find an old brick building due to the contrast of the brick with the wood. “That’s something that we really rolled the dice on because we already had everything and decided to just see what happened when we put it all together.” See how it all came together in the slideshow!