The Japanese know where it’s at when it comes to relaxation. Onsen (Japanese hot spring) hotels are similar to our spas in the UK, but better. Think hot pools of healing water surrounded by zen gardens and the smell of incense. Even then you’re not close to imagining how amazing the real deal is. Trust me.
We were lucky enough to pay the Amanemu a visit in April, just a month after it opened its doors. It was incredible! Minamilist and cool, the place is set up in a resort style with villas and suites dotted around a main spa, restaurant, bar and pool area. It’s overlooking Ago Bay in Mie prefecture (famous for Mikimoto pearls, there’s even a museum dedicated to him in town) and the train journey from Kyoto was super easy and really pretty. On the journey we were papped by a very sweet old Japanese man who saw us and immediately started shouting “shashin, shashin!” Which means “picture, picture”! Of course we obliged and then after our five minutes of fame bought a bento box and carried on the rest of our journey feeling like minor celebs.
The first thing I noticed at the Amanemu is the beautiful reception area. The place has been designed to perfection – wonderfully modern but with exceptional Japanese detailing, including sliding woven screens, hinoki wood walls and stunning oversized bamboo lanterns. Lanterns that I must have asked Alex to try and steal for me about twenty times during our stay! Unfortunately they were too big to fit in our weekender bag so no go on new bamboo lampshades for the apartment. Sigh.
The rooms were just as beautiful as the reception. We had our own onsen bath, which was immediately filled upon arrival and a bottle of prosecco requested from reception. Heavenly. After a soak we headed to the infinity pool overlooking the bay for a swim and some more prosecco. You can never have enough prosecco on holiday.
After a swim we worked up our appetite for dinner so headed to the restaurant for some of the most wonderful fish I’ve ever tasted. Super fresh and so well prepared it was the kind of food that stays with you. I will, without doubt, remember that fish for the rest of my life. In fact, take me back right now to have some more. I mean, just look at it…
Day one was sadly over after our fishy feast so we headed to bed, after all I needed my beauty sleep for the spa the next day! I was not disappointed. Huge beds, onsen pools and treatments rooms smelling of hinoki, tangerine and wasabi. A strange combination but it totally worked.
We had the place to ourselves as it was so close to the opening. I decided to treat myself to a massage. It started with traditional foot scrub using ground pearls (I know, right?!) wasabi, seat salt and tangerine. I opted for the energising oils (yuzu and ginger) and still managed to fall asleep half way through. Must have been good.
After the spa we headed for some more delicious seafood and local sake then to bed. One more night of sound sleep in our super-comfy, super-king before heading back to Kyoto.