Haute Hotels: Aman Tokyo
Aman's first city hotel is a fitting tribute to the rich culture of Japan – and a true urban oasis that's hard to leave
Tokyo is a city of so many layers that, even after living there for more than three years, I feel I've barely scratched the surface. It's difficult to articulate the depth and intensity of this amazing city, considered a microscosm of the entire country at the crossroads of traditional and modern Japan.
When Aman announced that Tokyo would be the site of its first urban property, I was among the many who were pleased; at the same time, I recognised the scale of that endeavour. Expectations were very high, both from locals used to impeccable Japanese service and from tourists who expect an authentic cultural representation and experience. That Tokyo has only a handful of design-driven hotels compared to Paris or New York made it a great choice for Aman's initial venture, but the hotel needed to differentiate itself from the influx of luxury properties lining Marunouchi and Ginza. Needless to say, Aman did it right.
I arrived on a Sunday afternoon after a short taxi ride from Tokyo Station to Otemachi Tower, the gleaming, 38-storey high-rise that houses the Aman Tokyo. It's located in Otemachi, a business district that is taking its cue from Marunouchi by slowly shedding its corporate image to welcome more creative establishments. Since the hotel occupies the top six floors, the welcome on the ground floor was simple and efficient, which somehow added to the anticipation.
I knew what to expect based on the pictures, but the experience of entering the lobby for the first time is difficult to capture in words or imagery. It's more than just the expanse of the 30-metre ceiling or the impressive yet delicate cherry blossom tree atop a water feature – it was memorable for the feeling of serenity that enveloped me. I sat down to a welcome yuzu drink; listening to the soft music of the koto player, I decided to linger with a cocktail while looking at the hushed activity of the city below.
The principles of Japanese design are rooted in simplicity and minimalism, which are expertly translated here by Kerry Hill Architects. Everything draws on Japanese tradition and craft, but not overly so, ensuring that the look and feel is modern, considered and sophisticated. I particularly enjoyed how Aman incorporated the idea of engawa – the wooden strip of flooring before the windows where people enjoy conversation – in the room and how it placed importance on the bathing ritual by including an onsen. The bathroom is quietly luxurious and is probably the only onsen in city that comes with such stunning scenery – either an uninterrupted view of the Imperial Palace Gardens or the Tokyo Sky Tree, depending on which way your room is facing.
It's hard to peel yourself away from the mesmerising view – or the room for that matter. You'd be compelled to spend as much time in the suite that breakfast in bed is a given. Aman sets you up for a good day ahead, with a delicious spread that proves its attention to detail. Traceability of ingredients is paramount here: the free-range eggs are sourced from the Inoue farm in Kanagawa, while the rich and heavenly butter is produced by the Kouzu dairy farm in Gunma. The latter farm cares for a special cow named Aman-anda, from which the milk is sourced, resulting in an extremely rich butter.
If this hotel were located on a secluded tropical island, I'd be happy to laze around all day. Alas, it's Tokyo, and the city beckons with its concept boutiques, hidden cafes and bars, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants – so much to see and do. At the end of the night, however, one can't wait to go back, retreat, and be greeted warmly: "Welcome home to the Aman."