The gal had heard about Amanemu as though it was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but like that golden wonder, she had no clear idea where it actually was. Thanks to help from the luxury hotel, and Aman’s excellent team in London, the arrival journey involved, from Tokyo’s Haneda airport, one flight to Osaka’s Itami (or ‘International’, although mainly domestic) airport, one limousine bus, and two trains, and then, on reaching Kashikojima, in Japan’s smallest mainland province of Shima, pickup in a Lexus. Immediately on arrival came a sense of relief, wonderment, with fresh air and deep breaths. In villa 10, one of 24, all in semi-detached, grey-tiled houses with private gardens before and behind, one of the first things to do is to look around. Each space is the same, 1,000 sq feet of fabulous honey-coloured wood soaring to cathedral ceilings – see the video below, showing Kerry Hill’s sensational interior. Attached to each living-bedroom is a dark grey stone bathing area that includes a big basalt tub with three taps, hot, cold and near-boiling onsen, hot spring, water.
Yes, this is my own spa area, and no wonder many, especially the 60% of guests who are Japanese, come back again and again, especially since Amanemu is on the bank of Ago Bay in beautiful Ise Shima National Park. No wonder, too, that Yamaha, the motorbike and piano company, chose here for an educational camp, then called Nemu, or Yamaha Village – people came, perhaps by bike but certainly to perfect their music skills. Then the entire area was bought by Mitsui Fudosan, whose resort division also includes Halekulani, in Honolulu. Mitsui Fudosan kept the golf courses and the original hotel, Nemu, but they built a luxury resort, which has become Amanemu. Today people also come for the food, and for wellness. I loved eating in The Restaurant, where chef Masanobu Inaba, formerly at Conrad Tokyo, produces international if you must but also gorgeous set meals. We went for Ise-shima Roman Set: a jellied anglerfish appetizer and a bite of pufferfish milt (intestine) on a barely-visible risotto, broth with local tuna and tofu, assorted sashimi, steamed abalone, a melt-in-mouth already-sliced Matsusaka beef sirloin and Zuwai crab blended with steamed rice.
There was no space for the white bean soup dessert, with dumpling. We toasted Aman in its own-label Masumi Sake 1662, from Miyataka Brewing Co, and went on, interestingly, to the recommended wine by glass, a Greek Xinomavro, by Kir-Yanni Estate Ramnista, owned by an eccentric collector, Yiannis Boutaris. At night the gorgeous cedar tables were set with burgundy and black-swirl table mats and sage napkins, upright in drinking glasses. At breakfast, the only colour on tables was a single green leaf, in a clear pot (white napkins were rolled in interlinking bamboo rings, direct on tabletops). But now the view outside, down to the Bay, provided all the colour one wanted, and there were more bright colours on the dishes of fruits and salad stuffs wheeled silently in on a wood trolley, exactly matching the champagne of chairs, banquettes, floors, screens, everything.
After breakfast I headed out for a bike ride, up and down the hills on the estate – then back to the gym, a good LifeFitness setup with amazing views to the main onsen area (see top of this story), where there are two pools, one 38 and one 41 degrees. Some Japanese, I was told, are initially rather amazed that they are shared, and everyone must wear swimgear: traditionally, men and women are naked in their one-sex facilities. I was later taken, by Yoshi Kubota, England-educated deputy to the hotel GM, Hisayo Shimizu (a former ANA flight attendant who was enticed away from the air by Adrian Zecha) who was in Tokyo – on a buggy tour to see the Nemu marina, where summer long Amanemu guests can take an assortment of boating trips, or have a drink or outside barbeque overlooking the water. We saw the spa, another serene area where journeys, from 90 to 180 minutes, change with the seasons. Spring time? Cleanse with a seasalt compress of yomogi mugwort, and neroli and green tea essential oils. We saw the library, a magnetic room with fireplace and views of manicured trees through all the picture windows, as if to divert me from so many gorgeous books. And then, all too soon, it was time, very sadly, to leave this fascinating luxury resort. NOW TOUR VILLA 10, BELOW