On Friday night I couldn't sleep. I pictured demonlike New York pigeons eating garbage and creating mayhem around a single crumb of bread. It was too much to handle. In the morning I was going to wake up and pay to have bird shit rubbed on my face.
Shizuka New York Skin Care Salon has been offering the hourlong $180 Geisha bird-poop facial for about five years. Yes, for five years people have been getting bird shit rubbed on their faces and told no one about it. The spa, located right by Radio City Music Hall, reportedly poop-erizes about 100 men and women each month with the treatment. The Japanese spa is owned by Tokyo native Shizuka Bernstein, who aims to bring Japanese spa treatments to America. (The treatment is relatively rare for the U.S., but has been used since the 1600s by actors and geishas in Japan.)
I had my pick of appointments; one was open every hour—never a good sign. At 11:30 a.m. on a dreary Saturday morning I was greeted with a friendly hello and a bag printed with those happy little Japanese cartoon cats (I pictured them saying “Get ready to be poopified, bi-otch!”). Inside, I found a Japanese-style robe and some slippers. Dressed in the robe, I immediately took selfies and sent them to my friends with the caption: “Hey, about to get bird poop rubbed on my face, BRB.” My friend Kristin replied, “Is that sanitary? Are you being abused?”
The receptionist and blogger for the spa, Olivea Shure, said the poop is imported from Japan and comes to them in a powdered state—where it is then mixed with rice bran and turned into a liquid form. The “traditional” nightingales are raised on a farm and fed organic birdseed. After their poop is collected, it is run under a UV light to sanitize it. The treatment is said to have enzymes that are soothing for the face. “We have a well-known history of it in Japan,” Shure said. “When people hear 'bird poop,' they think of New York City pigeons ... It makes for a sensational topic for the press.”
In the hierarchy of animal poop, I thought, bird crap might be the most appealing. My golden retriever’s poop smells like composted horse manure, but birds eat seeds and berries—they're pretty much vegans.
When my facialist Satomi Teraoka made it clear—multiple times—that there would be bird poop included in this treatment, I wondered how many people just thought a Geisha Facial seemed pleasant, got in the room, and were greeted with this lovely news. “That's why I'm here,” I told her, like a poop fiend.
Every wet substance that was put on my face in the first five minutes sent me into a panic. When I opened my mouth to ask, she volunteered: “Now we have the exfoliating with the bird droppings.”
The Psycho theme song rang in my head as her poop-filled paintbrush crept closer to my face. And then—I smelled rice. That's really all it smells like: a rice cake. I wanted to ask for the fried hibachi rice scent, but I didn't think it would go over well (plus, I wasn't in a position to piss off someone armed with bird crap). She was careful not to get the saucy liquid anywhere near my mouth or eyes—though midway through application, I felt a slow, sloppy stream of the poo roll down my neck and into my robe. I then found myself in what I now will coin as “the poop cocoon”: wrapped with a warm towel around my face, in a steamy bird-poop hell.
And that was it. Climax: poop.
In the 45 minutes that followed, my facialist friend popped all my pimples during “extraction,” where she muttered “sorry” for hurting me. I wanted to respond, “It's cool, bro. You already rubbed poop on my face.” At one point, I was encased in a jelly-green-tea collagen mask, which was awesome. Not awesome if you're claustrophobic, because it covers your mouth, and you really can't breathe at all. If your nose were stuffy, you'd probably die. My stranger-friend left the room to let the gel mask sit on my face for a bit. I took the liberty of turning into an alien for three whole minutes complete with “take me to your leader” dialogue and alien claw arms. My face actually looked like it was covered in alien afterbirth.
After my treatment I was greeted in the lounge with a cup of green tea and seaweed wrapped cracker things. I changed out of my Japanese garbs, paid for the treatment, and was on my way. Poop face and all.