Aman Tokyo hotel review
The renowned chain has opened its first city resort, Aman Tokyo, and the hotel in the sky deserves the hype.
Traveller: C. James Dale
Address: Japan, 〒100-0004 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Otemachi, 1
Date: April 2015
Best for: Enjoying the sights of Tokyo by day and escaping to a luxury hotel in the sky by night
As the automatic blinds slowly retracted following a good night’s sleep, they revealed something one can’t see at any Aman hotel in the world: a city view. There was Tokyo Tower, poking out of a tangle of tall buildings. There was the Imperial Palace, its green rooftops shining in the morning sun. And, in the distance, there was Mount Fuji, its peak covered in a cap of snow.
Roughly a day earlier and 110 metres lower, my wife and I were navigating the deserted streets of the Japanese capital’s Ōtemachi district on our way to this luxury nest in the sky. Guests who walk out of the elevator on the 33rd floor of the Ōtemachi Tower and into the lobby of the Aman Tokyo can expect to find themselves looking up. The ceiling, which soars 30 metres above, is covered with washi paper and backlit to offer the subdued glow of a lantern. Grey, volcanic rock lines the floors and walls. Blond ash wood offers a clean contrast.
It’s a bold nod by designer Kerry Hill to traditional Japanese residences. A fusion of natural elements common in these homes – water, stone, vegetation – sits at the heart of the lobby, highlighting the importance people in Japan place on experiencing nature and the changing of seasons, even in a city setting.
“For people who came here a week ago, it was just a twig,” noted one staff member, gesturing to the lobby’s centerpiece, a peach blossom branch. “We can see it blooming day by day.”
Delights around every corner
Aman hotels always aim to reflect local cultures and traditions, and Aman Tokyo stays true to that approach, marrying past and present in the same effortless fashion for which Japan itself has become renowned. The property is new and sleek, with clean lines and earth tones. In the afternoons, a woman in a kimono plays a (traditional Japanese stringed instrument) as, out the tall windows behind her, the sun begins its slow descent over the seemingly endless urban landscape. The serene swimming pool and state-of-the-art gym overlook Tokyo Tower and its bigger cousin, the Tokyo Skytree.
Throughout the hotel, the works of artisan Shuhei Hasado adorn the walls: dried vines and berries embedded in plaster; a panel of pine cones and needles designed to mimic the forest floor on the cusp of winter; ghostly interpretations of trees with flowers falling to the ground. Other artwork, from ceramics to screens, is placed throughout the common areas, hallways, and the 84 rooms and suites.
The accommodations are spacious, ranging from 71 to 157 square metres, and they feel like modern Japan’s tribute to its history. A raised bed sits where a futon would. A flat-screen television is hidden inside a low, long wood table, ready to emerge at the touch of a button. Shōji or rice paper screens separate the bedroom from the bathroom, where stone forms the sinks, walls and the deep tub that’s perched high above the bustling metropolis. Pillow-lined bench seats abut the expansive windows, a place to sip tea or coffee as you consider the view.
Fuji’s sunset farewell
And the view is indeed remarkable. On a clear day at sunset, long rays of light stretch across the floor of the lobby, spilling into the cigar lounge, which comes complete with private bottle lockers for those who can’t leave home without their favourite whisky, bourbon, or cognac.
The light also floods the bar, where we sat sipping crisp white wine and reflecting on our walk around the neighbourhood earlier in the day, a tour that took us down the tree-lined Nakadori shopping street, over to the moats and walls that surround the Imperial Palace, and past the brick façade of the beautifully-restored Tokyo Station.
It was a rare evening alone without our daughter, but we found it hard to focus on conversation given the quiet, yet very overt presence of Fuji-san, as the Japanese call their iconic mountain. Patrons stared and snapped photos as the peak, transformed into a dark silhouette against the skyline’s slowly shifting colour palette.
After we moved to The Restaurant for dinner, we tried a refreshing yet oaky Japanese sparkling wine as we awaited our dishes, which included a sea bass carpaccio from Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market and a superb beef from the southwestern island of Kyushu. But it was the butter from Hokkaido we still crave, a whipped and creamy spread that forced us to order basket after basket of bread. For dessert, we shared a deconstructed tiramisu, with the cake laid out next to a green tea mousse in a bowl made of chocolate, accented by a dollop of white cream.
The following morning, we rolled over and pushed the button next to the bed to retract the blinds, fully expecting a repeat of our first morning’s panorama. But instead, it was snowing in Tokyo. Gone was our beloved Fuji-san. Gone, too, was Tokyo Tower. As the flakes swirled around, we marvelled at the dynamism of the hotel’s inner and outer ambiance. While the previous day had been brilliant and lured us to the streets below, this wintry scene encouraged us to stay inside, linger over breakfast, and finish that conversation we’d started the night before.