How a Japanese ‘sleeping time machine’ aims to ease NYC’s sleep woes


I like this.


This sleep-deprived new mother cherishes every minute of shut eye. So when I had a chance to experience a “sleep treatment” — during work hours, no less — it was hard to say no. 

Goku, a new “sleeping time machine” spa in Midtown, specializes in Zeccho, a $150 scalp massage created by a Japanese accountant who was once so sleep deprived, she fell asleep in a work meeting. 

“That was a bad experience, so I started thinking about how to fix my difficulty sleeping at night,” said Goku owner, Atsumi Kaneda, through a translator.

About a decade ago, Kaneda created the Zeccho head massage with the help of acupuncturists, doctors and estheticians. Since opening the first Goku spa in Kyoto in 2008, the waiting list has grown to more than 436,000 people, according to Kaneda. 

And because of New York’s sleepless reputation, Kaneda decided to open a location at 18 W 38th street. Having worked for years in a culture that places a high value on long work hours, Kaneda developed the massage to be particularly useful to people suffering from stress, work burn out, worry and constant computer use (yeah, welcome to New York).

Here’s how it works: A Goku esthetician aligns the hands and fingers to provide “perfect pressure” on the scalp, releasing tension in muscles around the head and eye areas. The technique is meant to promote blood circulation, resulting in relaxation of the mind and body. Goku’s promise, at the very least, is reduced stress levels. At best? You fall alseep within 10 minutes of the treatment. 

“Sometimes it is a very light sleep, where you are drifting in and out,” said Kaneda. 

Goku promises that clients will emerge with a euphoric feeling, and go home to enjoy a higher quality of sleep for several nights. 

My Goku esthetician, Yoshie Suzuki, greeted me at the entrance of the futuristic spa, offering water and a gentle warning. “I’ll also be massaging your chest, shoulders and ears. Is that okay?” It was more than okay, and in fact, the ear reflexology was the highlight of the treatment. My first assumption was that the scalp massage would be similar to the tingly goodness of a frenzied shampooing at a hair salon, but it wasn’t so. Instead, Suzuki slowly applied pressure with the tips of her fingers, without the use of oils. 

So did I fall asleep during the massage? No. But between the cushiony recliner, darkened room, ethereal music, and fleece blanket, it’s clear  why people drift off during the treatment. To my delight, though, sleep came quickly that night, and I enjoyed a much deeper slumber than usual — for as long as my little one let me. 

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