Bathing, particularly in public, is the tradition of the Koreans, the Japanese, and the Turks. Getting naked with a bunch of locals and scrubbing the dead out of your skin is not an American pastime, not because it involves socializing or cleanliness or water, but because people here tend to prefer to be seen traipsing around in blue jeans and high heels rather than floating around in the nude with wrinkled skin and limp hair. The idea of communal showers, of scouring your body as you would a cast iron skillet, rubbing, scrubbing, scrutinizing and scraping to rid your person of every stale skin cell until it becomes one real, live shining spectacle, is as intimidating as an extreme sport. At Hankook Sauna and Spa, the exclusively female baths in Koreatown, you can spend a day prancing around in the nude with dozens of other strangers, soaking in steaming Jacuzzis, sweating in the dry sauna, leeching your pores in the herb steam room, holding your breath in the freezing cold pool 'til your body begs to return to the heat. At Hankook, spa etiquette is not explained, but assumed. Rinse off in the showers between rooms and pools, smother your hair with conditioner and bake it in the sauna until your mane shines as brilliantly as an otter pelt. There are rooms founded on temperature: a glistening Ice Room that looks like a Christmas display at Stats Home Decorative and feels like you're sitting naked in an industrial freezer; the Crystal Jade Salt Room where you can lie down on warm, green rocks and listen to the chirp of women gossiping in Korean. Day spa use is $15 for the whole day, but for an extra fee, a Hankook assistant will provide massage, acupressure, manicures and pedicures, even a haircut. Rinse. Scrub. Soak. Repeat. 3121 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A. (213) 388-8899,

—Erica Zora Wrightson

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