AMANEMU

ISE-SHIMA, JAPAN

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - HOTELS -

Afeel­ing of seren­ity in­stantly en­folds me at this ex­cep­tional re­sort set over 130 hectares on a forested ridge in a na­tional park on the Ise-Shima penin­sula of south­ern Japan. It’s not just the tem­ple-like hush or the qui­etly spo­ken staff or the fault­less de­sign. It is a mag­i­cal fu­sion of all th­ese fac­tors at Amanemu, which is not a health re­sort but a place of heal­ing for city-dulled minds and tired souls. From the wel­come drink of iced ise kabuse sen­cha, served in a tea house-like pavil­ion fac­ing Ago Bay, to the two per­fectly matched nec­tarines, un­blem­ished and pos­si­bly pol­ished, that con­sti­tute my fruit bowl, all is highly re­fined and con­sis­tently un­der­stated.

The in­ven­tory com­prises 24 suites in du­plexes and four two-bed­room vil­las with pri­vate on­sen. The vil­lage-like lay­out and crisp pro­files of Amanemu’s cen­tral pavil­ions and ac­com­mo­da­tion wings, with dark-stained cedar ex­te­ri­ors and low-reach­ing tiled roofs, have been de­vised by Aus­tralia’s Kerry Hill to mimic the minka architecture of farm­ing com­pounds. Bare colon­nades of slat­ted wooden col­umns break sun­light into sharp, tiger-like stripes. A Ja­panese ar­chi­tect friend tells me, “There is al­most noth­ing to see [in Ja­panese de­sign] so you must make an ef­fort to see it.”

From the mo­ment I en­ter the sanc­tu­ary of Suite No 9, I want to leave be­hind my real life, which in­cludes my messy suit­case. I hide it away in the dress­ing room where it can’t in­ter­fere with all this per­fec­tion. I would even dis­ap­pear, too, if I could, phan­tom-ninja style, rather than risk sul­ly­ing the in­te­rior. There is a seam­less unity, with no sud­den shots of bright colour or dé­cor mishaps. In­stead of flouncy flow­ers, tiny green sprigs peek from a ce­ramic vase. It is Ja­panese de­sign in its most el­e­men­tal form, as much about ab­sence as pres­ence; to do with con­ceal­ment, not dec­la­ra­tion. This pris­tine cham­ber is all pale, hon­eyed hi­noki cy­press tim­bers, neu­tral soft fur­nish­ings and ri­cepa­per shoji screens that glide across wall-sized win­dows.

Shoes come off, of course; pop on soft slip­pers and a pas­tel cot­ton robe. Draw a deep bath in the black basalt ofuro tub, which in­cludes a tap ded­i­cated to scald­ing min­eral wa­ter straight from the on­sen source. Add bath salts that smell of figs and herbs. Soak for hours look­ing across mead­ows of tall grass. Breathe deeply. Sleep in white Egyp­tian cot­ton bed­ding of silken soft­ness.

The suites are con­ceived as clas­sic ryokan with a con­tem­pla­tion gar­den at the en­try and a pri­vate back deck fac­ing pro­tected stands of fir trees. At night, staff draw the screens and lower the lights and it feels like be­ing but­toned up. I dream of be­com­ing Marie Kondo’s best dis­ci­ple and de­clut­ter­ing my life.

There are buzzy in­sects and low, hot skies dur­ing my late-Au­gust stay; I pot­ter about the grounds, ad­mir­ing the au­tumn-turn­ing maples and watch­ing yel­low but­ter­flies danc­ing in long grass. In­side the re­mark­able Amanemu, all is per­fec­tion, but, be­yond, noth­ing in­ter­feres with na­ture, not even the straw-hat­ted gar­dener who waits pa­tiently for a tiny bird to move be­fore he clips a bush. This could be nowhere else but Japan. Su­san Kuro­sawa is The Aus­tralian’s travel ed­i­tor.

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