Whether in water or on land, Amanemu hotel in Ise-Shima National Park is a wonder. Set above renowned Ago Bay, home to the world’s best cultured pearls, the hotel is dotted with hot springs within a forest for an utterly natural escape. Inspired by the ryokan tradition, the minimalist rooms utilise local materials in harmony with nature, including deep soaking tubs with taps for cold, hot or mineral hot-springs water. The restaurant draws from the surroundings, offer izakaya-style fresh seafood, prized Wagyu beef and local herbs and vegetables, for a reminder that Amanemu is surrounded by the best of Japan.
Double rooms from $1015.78 (JPY110,000), excluding tax at 24.2 per cent.
Rates include daily American or Japanese breakfast for two at the restaurant, and transfers to and from Kashikojima Station.
Greet the day with yoga in a glass-walled studio or the adjoining private deck overlooking tranquil gardens. Tea and drinks are served each afternoon from 3 to 5pm.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, WiFi, minibar with free bottled water, Nespresso coffee machine and Aman bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Rooms at Amanemu are all thoughtfully planned to maximise views and privacy, with bare wood and large windows. Of the suites, Nagi Suite has the best uninterrupted panorama of Ago Bay.
Overlooking the forests and Ago Bay, the heated outdoor 33-metre swimming pool is ringed with sun loungers for tranquil relaxation. Children are only permitted with adult supervision.
Surrounded by gardens, the water-inspired Aman Spa offers 2,000 square metres of relaxation, including two private pavilions, a watsu pool and four treatment suites. Designed around a large hot spring, the spa incorporates mineral water in its treatments and salts from Ago Bay. Treatments include signature massages and facials, body scrubs, hot-stone therapies and reiki.
Plan to stock up on jewellery: Ago Bay is where Mikimoto cultivates its world-famous pearls.
Welcome, though the quiet setting is best suited to adults.
Request a booth facing the windows to most comfortably take in the sensational leafy views.
Relaxed linens and Ago Bay pearls.
High above Ago Bay with views of the surrounding forests, the house restaurant serves food as immersed in Japan’s heritage as the surroundings. The menu showcases local ingredients, including Matsusaka, a coveted, well-marbled variety of Japanese Wagyu beef, and seafood from the nearby waters, including spiny lobster and abalone, available roasted, fried or as traditional sashimi. The elegant restaurant also serves a selection of continental dishes fused with local ingredients, including fried ravioli, tuna tartare and beef carpaccio with truffles.
The lounge, adjacent to the pool, is open throughout the day for cocktails influenced by local ingredients, with names like Pearl Salty Dog and the Yamamomojito, which is made from bayberries grown on the hotel grounds. On beautiful days, sip outside on the sunken terrace.
The restaurant serves three square meals a day, opening from 7am to 10:30am for breakfast, noon to 2:30pm for lunch, then 6 to 10:30pm for dinner.
A full menu is available for delivery at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Amanemu is located in Ise Shima National Park on the east coast of Japan.
Nagoya Chubu International Airport is the closest hub, 180km from the hotel (a three-hour drive or 25-minute helicopter ride). The airport offers domestic flights from Tokyo and other cities in Japan, as well as limited international routes, including Frankfurt, Detroit and Dubai. Transfers are available for 73,000 yen (about £550).
Trains are a fast and convenient way to travel around Japan, and the Kashikojima Station is a 20-minute drive from the hotel. Transfers are available at no charge for guests.
The hotel is accessible by car, and free valet parking is available for guests.
Worth getting out of bed for
Set in the beautiful Ise-Shima National Park, a sanctuary of hot springs, Amanemu has plenty to dazzle visitors on its own grounds. The hotel was designed to maximise views of Ago Bay and the surrounding forests, whether during yoga in the glass-walled studio or around an outdoor fireplace on a sunken terrace. The Aman Spa is worth a trip all its own, with private hot-springs pavilions and water-inspired therapies to soothe weary muscles after a long day of travel or hiking. The hotel is blissfully secluded, so beyond visits to the bay and surrounding hot springs, most activities require some travel. A 50-minute drive from the hotel, Ise Jingu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Japan's sun goddess. One of Shinto's most holy sites, the shrine has existed in some form since 4 BC. Though tourist access is limited, the hotel can arrange for a guide during a prayer session and ritual dance to the deities. Though a three-and-a-half-hour drive from the hotel, Kumano Kodo is worth the travel. A network of pilgrimage routes, the Kumano Kodo is a Unesco-recognized collection of mountain and coastal trails. Japan is legendary for its sashimi, and the waters near Amanemu have some of the best fish to prepare. Amanemu can arrange for fishing trips with expert anglers from shore or by boat. The hotel chefs can then prepare the catch.
The nearest restaurants are in Shima Mie, a 15-minute drive from the hotel. Tecchan (3460 Agocho Ugata) is a classic izakaya with tempura, whole fish and sushi. Down the same road, Torinoya serves yakitori skewers.
I had always dreamt of staying at an Aman hotel. I just knew, without having previously visited one, that they would be my favorite group of hotels. Perhaps it was the way they don’t shout about their greatness; they quietly and discreetly promote their incredible properties. Or maybe it was their design, the way each stay is so brilliantly conceived to ensure it blends seamlessly into its environment – locations chosen for their spectacular uniqueness.
So finally, after so many years, I made it to my first Aman hotel: the incredible Amanemu in Japan’s Ise-Shima National Park. Another Aman trait is breathtakingly ‘away from it all’ settings, so admittedly it was a bit of a mission to get to. We arrived from art-dedicated island Naoshima in the south, so our journey involved local buses and ferries and trains: – a high-speed Shinkansen followed by another train – and then a private shuttle. But, I would happily have travelled for another five days if the end result was a stay at Amanemu.
On arrival at Kashikojima train station we were greeted with refreshing chilled towels and bottled water by the sweetest, most humble of hotel drivers. On the 30-minute drive from the station he pointed out famous local sights along the way; the area surrounding Ise-Shima National Park is renowned for its shrines, including Ise Jingu – one of the most revered and oldest in Japan (at approximately 2,000 years old). It was built using only wood – no nails, no other materials – an incredible feat. Our charming host at Amanemu explained that the shrine is renovated every 20 years, so this unique, traditional style of building style is passed down to the younger generation.
Amanemu sits at the end of a long, winding driveway. The peaceful property is surrounded by lush greenery and gardens of bright yellow flowers, dotted with black, shrine-style wooden pavilions. With views over the painterly landscape and out to the blue waters of Ago Bay, the setting here is absolutely Aman-worthy; and, designed by Australian architect, Kerry Hill, the contemporary architecture is sympathetic to traditional Japanese style.
We stayed in the Sora Suite, a villa crafted from pale wood with views out over the water. Behind sliding screen doors we found our own private onsen (a mineral-rich hot tub), and I loved with twin mirrors and sinks, charcoal-colored basalt-stone tiles, and a beautiful rain shower.. Everything was so thoughtfully designed. The beds offered next-level comfort, and after the lovely, discreet turn-down service each evening we found gifts of beautifully-wrapped incense on the super-soft pillows.
We also fell in love with the black, minimalist, wood-panelled interiors of the main house – a nod to the classic Japanese ryokan (an Edo-era inn) aesthetic. Despite it being winter, we made sure to jump in the eye-catching, 33-metre, heated pool each morning to swim laps amid wisps of steam rising from the surface. From the infinity edge, the views out to the sea were incredible.
Staff at Amanemu – and everywhere in Japan, I suppose – were kind, humble, discreet and helpful. They’d bend over backwards to attend to your every need. You can be ferried around the property by golf buggy if you wish, just give them a call and they will collect you from wherever you are. Amanemu's award-winning spa has a bank of open-air onsens filled with natural, mineral-rich waters. It’s recommended to hop between the hot and cold onsens to help with circulation and detoxification; when we mentioned we didn't have our bathing suits with us, staff quickly offered us a pair of one-piece, zoot-suit-style numbers instead. We donned our new swimwear and bounced between the onsens, before settling in for a blissful 90-minute Seasonal Journey treatment in one of the light-filled treatment rooms. Oils infused with in-season botanicals were rubbed into our palms, and after a few deep breaths the treatment began. Our feet were gently soaked in oil and wasabi salt, before we had the massages of our dreams, followed by a fragrant cup of tea. Yoga is offered too.
The hotel’s food was healthy and plentiful. Portions were extremely generous, starting with a mammoth feast for breakfast. We opted for the Japanese selection: local seafood from the bay, and other local delicacies. That night we stayed in and ordered room service; a slightly more Westernised selection of burgers and linguine pescatore, which were both delicious. We washed them down with a bottle of Australian shiraz – happy days, indeed.
Here, you do as little or as much as you like; the setting absolutely promotes rest and relaxation amid the natural beauty of the surrounds. We recommend asking the friendly staff to arrange a driver to take you to Ise Jingu – an incredible day out that immerses you in the spirituality and history of the area. It’s also crazy to miss out on the spa treatments, or doing laps in the pool, or biking through the grounds, or being chauffeured around in a golf buggy… Although even just chilling-out is special in this superlative stay.
I was blown away by my first Aman experience, and now I plan on hitting up the remainder of their 31 properties across the world, somehow, sometime soon.
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