Being an Aman loyalist and having taken in the splendor that this luxurious chain of hospitable spaces has to offer, I’ve come to appreciate the level of intricacy in each of its properties. The blend of the local flavor with the unforgivingly spacious and modern touches that each Aman hotel dons are an aspiration for other hotel chains. This time my travels brought me to the Amanemu, located in Shima, Japan. It isn’t the first Japanese Aman property I visited. The Tokyo experience, as I recollect, doused me in every possible urban luxury that I could imagine, with a spectacular view in tow. The Amanemu, however, is quite the opposite. It’s for quieter, more reflective souls, who do not shy away from the luxe life.
I arrived at the Amanemu after a 2-hour ride from Nagoya. The journey itself foretold the spectacular sights that awaited me at the property, which is a hideaway in itself. Located on Ago Bay or the ‘bay of pearls’ with several rooms overlooking the stunning bay, it is right in the middle of the Ise Shima National Park. It may be four hours away from Tokyo, but that’s how far removed from the city you’d want to be to experience the countryside life that Japan has to offer.
The forest as the backdrop and the wooden hues in the room evoke an unbelievable sense of calmness.
The property welcomes you with a winding driveway that leads to the welcome pavilion. The sight of rice paddies from here sinks your senses right into the rustic yet picturesque landscape that defines this experience. The Amanemu is developed by Kerry Hill Associates, who’re responsible for the Aman Tokyo.
I was put up in the choicest Mori Suite, a lavish 1100 square feet spread of living space. Like all Aman experiences, this one was no different in terms of décor. It was minimalist and had a strong inclination towards Japanese design aesthetics. With shutters made of timbers, sliding doors of wood decked with woven textiles and motifs carved in wood the interiors are a stark resemblance of traditional Japanese indoors. Aman hotels have an incredible knack of leveraging the best that the location has to offer to enhance the experiences they deliver. The floor-to-ceiling doors in my suite ensured that there was ample natural light streaming into the dwelling area. The baths were another experience altogether. Adorned with black basalt stone tiles, they resembled the exquisiteness of a luxury spa. There were two sinks, a rain shower and a large granite bathtub. Here’s what sets the Amanemu apart. The large bath functioned like an onsen, with its own hot spring water streaming in to calm your nerves. Truly incredible.
The Amanemu has one restaurant that serves both, western and Japanese cuisines. It seats around 50 guests breakfast, lunch and dinner. Staying authentic with the rustic countryside way of life, the restaurant sources all its produce directly from farms. Twelve chefs, led by Masanobu Inaba, cook up a delicious mix of tempura, sashimi and spiny lobster curries. I’d start my day with a serving of Yubari Melons for breakfast. The Truffle Soba was an exceptional dish and I loved it dearly enough to ask the chef to prepare it for me every day! Being a vegetarian I opted for the veg bento box that comprised of boiled vegetables, sea weed, pickle and sticky rice. The restaurant also had its own bar, stocked with an impressive catalogue of Japanese whiskeys, Japanese craft beer and cocktails. I’d love to sit by the private seating areas outside taking in the mystical dancing flames in the fire pits.
The spa at the Amanemu was expansive. 22,000 square feet, from what I was told. I enjoyed the Japanese techniques employed there followed by the experience of the outdoor onsen hot spring. The infinity pool overlooks the majestic bay. Another impressive addition to the Amanemu is the access if offers to the Nemu golf course with 18 holes. My favourite activity was cycling to the Ago Bay. It offered a comfortable seating area with views of the ocean and the lighthouse. An idealistic sunset point for a budding photographer, with its truly picturesque backdrop. You could also set off on a private tour to the Ise Grande Shrine, an exploration with pearl divers, a trip along UNESCO World Heritage route – Kumano Kodo or set off on a hiking trail through a bamboo forest. I loved a trip to the lotus lake in a golf buggy. The wooden pathways, waterwheels and beautiful greens reminded me of the Shire from Lord of the Rings. A trip to the melon farm is recommended for those with a low appetite for travel and adventure.
One could define the Amanemu experience as a ryokan stay enswathed with luxury at every turn. It’s something I could feel at the Aman Tokyo as well, and it seems to be growing in me. From food to amenities and even the magical hot springs, all available within the comfortable confines of a restaurant with the merit of Aman seems to be just what makes for a great luxury tourism package.
2165 Hazako Hamajima-cho,
Shima-shi, Mie 517-0403 Japan
Phone: +81 599-52-5000
Note: The critic was invited by the hotel but all the opinions expressed herewith are his own