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Contemporary Hot Spring Resort Imparts Multiple Japanese Traditions

Kerry Hill Architects combines classic Japanese aesthetics with traditional ryokan culture in Amanemu, hotel group AMAN’s latest hospitality project in Japan. Stephanie Peh writes.

Contemporary Hot Spring Resort Imparts Multiple Japanese Traditions

Photographs courtesy of AMAN

The newly opened hot spring resort Amanemu is located on the shores of Ago Bay in Japan, 300 kilometres southwest of Tokyo. Guests arrive at the resort’s welcoming pavilion via a driveway lined with Japanese maple and cherry trees. Lush foliage also fittingly surround the resort, which sits within the Ise Shima National Park.

Amanemu is hotel group Aman’s latest project. Established in 1988, the group is known for its collection of intimate retreats that adhere closely to the customs and traditions of the destination it operates. To date, Aman owns 30 hotels and resorts around the world.

Main reception

Amanemu was designed by Singapore- and Australia-based Kerry Hill Architects. The team also spearheaded Aman Tokyo. While Aman Amanemu and Tokyo sport a similar neutral material and colour palette that is classically Japanese, each property expresses a different architectural experience. Aman Tokyo is set within the city in a high-rise building, while Aman Amanemu consists of multiple single-storey pavilions.

Entrance pavilion

Through a modern interpretation of Japanese Minka buildings, which translates to ‘house of the people’, the architecture of Amanemu is informed by traditional low-slung tiled roofs and dark-stained Japanese cedar exterior walls. This quiet language sets the backdrop for a contemplative retreat. The natural materials reflect an intrinsic respect for age-old Japanese traditions, reinterpreted in a modern way and executed sensitively. 

Villa exterior

The 24 suites and four two-bedroom villas in Amanemu are materialised by Japanese timber in light shades, creating visual contrast internally and externally. Each suite features floor-to-ceiling windows with timber sliding shutters and woven textiles that stretch from end to end, tactically placed to afford unobstructed views of the national park.

Suite interior

While the cost of a stay at the Amanemu can be considered premium, Kerry Hill Architects calls upon the quality of space and environment to enhance the guest experience. The space does not boast high-end materials such as marble or metal, which are conventionally adopted in luxury hotels of similar calibre. This approach seems to thread the award-winning firm’s body of work, spanning residential to hotel projects of varying scale.

Villa living room

The furniture featured in Amanemu are custom made to ensure a consistent design language throughout. This includes white oak coffee tables, sofas and armchairs upholstered with neutral fabric tones.

Private onsen

Drawing inspiration from traditional Japanese baths, the private onsen in each room is accented by charcoal-shade basalt stone tiles. Ornamentation is kept to a minimum so one can focus on the bathing experience, and the grand view of the private garden.

The restaurant

Other notable spaces within the resort include an izakaya-inspired restaurant with a vaulted ceiling. Located in between the restaurant and bar, sunken terraces constructed with basalt stone carve out a spot to relax over drinks. Guests can keep warm over glass covered fireplaces, while a 33-metre infinity pool nearby offers panoramic views of Ago Bay.

Spa garden, onsen, daybeds and fireside lounge

Cultural insertions include artworks formed using obi – a broad sash worn with a kimono. The pieces were created by a Japanese kimono and obi artisan with roots dating back over 270 years in Kyoto. The artworks decorate the walls of Amanemu’s spa and two-bedroom villas like treasured family heirlooms – a nod to age-old Japanese traditions.

Kerry Hill Architects

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