The uber-luxe hotel group has opened its second property in Japan after Tokyo. The minimal resort is set in the forested hills of southern Mie Prefecture, complete with spacious villas, hot spring onsen baths, sea views, delicious seafood and expansive spa.
Off the conventional tourist trail in Ise-Shima National Park, famed for its seafood, pearl farms and Japan’s oldest and most important shrine Ise-Jingu. It is three hours by train from Kyoto and four hours from Tokyo (or a quick helicopter hop from the halfway point Nagoya). The hotel is set on a quiet hilltop, surrounded by forests and golf courses, with sea views across Ago Bay.
Address: 2165 Hazako, Hamajima-cho, Shima-shi, Mie Prefecture, Japan.
Style & character
Designed by architect Kerry Hill, the hotel is a temple to minimalism and a modern take on traditional Japanese minka country homes. There are expanses of wood, bamboo and stone, pavilion-style structures and garden courtyards. Japanese touches can be seen in low-hanging tiled roofs, sliding screens and traditional motifs hand-carved in wood, echoing the craftsmanship of Ise-Jingu shrine. The landscaping – low-sprouting bamboo grass and seasonal trees – still feels sparse but will mature with time.
Service & facilities
Unlike the ever-bowing staff at some high-end Japanese hotels, staff are as happy to converse or share a joke as they are intuitively helpful. There is an outdoor infinity pool with more views over the bay; two sunken terraces with fires (for stargazing and cocktails); library and bikes for nipping around the resort or exploring. There’s also a serene 22,000 sq ft spa, while centre stage are outdoor hot spring onsen baths, plus an airy yoga studio, a watsu water therapy pool and four treatment rooms with forest views.
Treatments are rooted in local plants and traditional Japanese techniques – and so feet are scrubbed in wasabi and crushed pearls while massages use oil blends of local cedar leaves and tangerine, as inspired by Ise-Jingu shrine.
Serene, spacious and modern. There are walls of Japanese hinoki cypress wood, lofty ceilings, sliding woven screens (hiding televisions, an unusual touch for the normally TV-free Aman) and oversized bamboo lanterns. Walls of glass open onto wood decking, with luxuriously big daybeds. The scene-stealer in the bathroom is the deep, square bath of dark basalt stone with three taps: for hot, cold and onsen, enabling guests to enjoy indoor hot spring bathing.
Food & drink
The food is as elaborate as the decor is minimal in the simply-named Restaurant, an airy space with high, curved ceilings, a wall of sea-facing windows and a church-like atmosphere. A team of 12 chefs headed by Masanobu Inaba (from the Conrad Tokyo) create a rotating menu of seasonal Japanese delights – from lunchtime bento boxes of sashimi, tempura and spiny lobster curries to mouth-meltingly perfect slivers of local Mastusaka wagyu beef, plus Mie’s citrus fruits. The Bar and Lounge, with its low round tables and comfy seating, is the perfect setting for a cup of tea, a Japanese craft beer or a Mebuki cocktail (green tea, vodka, champagne and lime).
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