The tranquillity and natural spring waters of Aman’s newest resort Amanemu make for a soul-cleansing getaway.


The bathtub was the first thing I hopped into when I checked into Amanemu, Aman’s newest opening in the heart of the Ise-Shima National Park in Japan. As the first Aman resort with a private onsen in every suite, it seemed like the right—and only—thing to do. Furthermore, it had taken me nearly two hours by train from Nagoya (almost five if you depart from Tokyo) to the nearest Kashikojima station in Shima. After that, it was another 20min by complimentary limousine transfer to the resort. Never mind the scenic train and car journeys past lush park foliage, paddy fields and gorgeous sea views; I needed therapy for my cramped bones.

For once, I could bask alone, instead of sharing space with naked strangers, in my very own basalt stone-tiled bathtub filled with 60°C mineral-rich hot spring waters gushing out of the tap, complete with a splendid view of the glistening Ago Bay through full-length windows.

Getting out of the bathtub took some effort, so was leaving my 1,065sqft Nagi suite whose light timber interiors with minimalist furnishings in neutral tones kept beckoning me back to laze in its cosy arms. Outside, the architecture is equally charming. The resort’s 24 suites and four two-bedroom villas carry contemporary echoes of traditional Japanese minka farmhouses, with dark-stained Japanese cedar exterior walls and low-slung roofs with overlapping tiles like ocean ripples.

I eventually stepped outside to imbibe the region’s pearl-diving heritage, sacred shrines and scenic nature. I travelled 40min by car to Osatsu to lunch on freshly caught abalone, lobster and scallops with the region’s famous ama female pearl divers in their hut and hiked the 2.2km-long Magose Pass, whose magnificent cypress and cedar trees make it one of the most picturesque parts of the Unesco World Heritage-designated Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails.

Amanemu’s only restaurant also serves up fresh seasonal produce in its a la carte and omakase menus in informal Japanese izakaya style. Dinner was Ise lobster swimming in rich bouillabaisse and the region’s star, Matsusaka Wagyu beef, grilled to tender perfection. Dessert came with a local twist: at the end of my creamy smooth Japanese panna cotta was a hidden surprise in the form of a chewy potato flour mochi.

More water therapy occurred the next day as I took a dip in my swimwear in the less scorching 36°C waters of Aman Spa’s two open-air onsen. Then, it was an experience with the spa’s signature Amanemu Seasonal Journey treatment: a gentle exfoliating foot bath of wasabi and sea salt mixed with crushed pearls; a soothing body massage with the calming scent of peppermint and lavender massage oils; and light warm pounding on tight knots in the shoulders and back with a fragrant loquat leaf and lemongrass herbal compress. The human touch tops it all—Yasumi, my therapist felt my body tense up the moment I tried to discreetly adjust an awkward position, and immediately asked if I was all right.

I had never felt better and on the 5min buggy ride back to my villa in post-spa bliss, I wondered if anything could burst the relaxed bubble I had been enveloped in since my arrival. Almost on cue, a wild boar suddenly dashed out from the surrounding foliage into the path of our buggy. Brakes were jammed and I was jolted awake to the fact I was in a real national park. Welcome to the Amanemu retreat, where stylish contemplative luxury is not fabricated, but authentic in all its natural beauty.

This feature was originally published on Singapore Tatler


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