The DNA is Japanese throughout but with a modern feel - Aman's first urban property in Tokyo does not disappoint with its insane luxury and signature hospitality. By Jaime Ee
You can almost hear the howl of disapproval escaping the well-moisturised lips of the Aman acolyte, shattering the silence of ancient mountain ranges totally devoid of humanity save for an insanely luxurious resort that requires hours of dirt road driving and the occasional goat equivalent of GPS to get to. "What, an Aman resort in Tokyo?!"
But yes, it does seem that the purveyor of exclusive obscurity has crossed over to the dark side of accessibility, now that it has sunk its manicured roots in the teeming metropolis of downtown Tokyo. Aman's newest resort is literally surrounded by money in its premises at the Otemachi Tower, a gleaming skyscraper smack in the financial district where it sits above its fellow tenant - the headquarters of Japan's Mizuho Bank.
Aman Tokyo marks the luxury resort group's first urban property and it's clear from the outset that while you can take the hotel out of seclusion, you can't take the seclusion out of the hotel. The taxi driver can take you to the right address, but you will find neither hotel nor driveway. Instead, you wander around dragging your bags and following the only vague clue you can find - a sign that says "hotel entrance". And, as if in a preset cosmic sequence, the moment your eyes land on the discreet sign that finally says "Aman Tokyo" is the exact same moment that a hotel porter appears magically at your elbow, disengaging your suitcase from your hands.
Immediately, you're whisked up to the 33rd floor where the full-on Aman experience begins once the lift door opens.
The lobby isn't so much a lobby as it is a giant auditorium-sized living room. It's at once minimalist and jaw-dropping from the expanse of tranquil grey stone walls and blond wood accents, and the sky-high ceiling delicately panelled with Japanese washi paper like a giant lantern. Full-length glass windows brings the outdoors in as you take in the surrounding city skyline with views of the Imperial Palace below and the outline of Mount Fuji way beyond.
Aman's resident designer Kerry Hill has designed the Tokyo property based on his interpretation of a traditional Japanese home - just amplified many times over. Shoji paper sliding doors? Check. Only here the doors are sandwiched with acrylic board for sturdiness and fire protection. Engawa, or the Japanese version of the verandah? Check. It's manifested here with wooden corridor spaces, as Kerry Hill continues to play with light and levels to create different areas instead of erecting physical walls.
"The idea of the engawa and Japanese garden is interpreted for the lobby," explains Minako Hayata, the Aman's public relations manager. "The lounge is like a living area from which you can see the change of the seasons, for example, from our plant display. Like the peach blossom tree which now looks like an arrangement of twigs, but it will continue to blossom as the days go by." And she is right, as the sorry-looking bare twigs explode into a glorious riot of beatific tiny pink blossoms over the next couple of days.
Even if the cavernous lobby with its stark, cool greys does feel physically cold, it is Aman's signature hospitality that will warm you. Staff are on hand at every point - it's as if they're trained to respond to every glance, any possibility that you might need assistance. Even if you wander off into the library with its carefully curated books on everything from philosophy to the art of sushi, or the cigar lounge where patrons have their own lockers to keep their personal bottle of whisky, someone will find you just to give you an answer to a random query you might have made a few minutes ago but forgotten.
It's clear that Aman Tokyo has spared no expense in its hiring spree - and they've had no trouble attracting the cream of the crop from the top hotels in the city. Don't be surprised if you recognise - or are recognised - by concierges or waiters who attended to you even years ago at other prominent properties.
From rooms that start at an average 70 square metres for the entry-level rooms to suites that can rival any penthouse apartment, the DNA is Japanese throughout, but with a modern feel. Wooden stools and basins in the bathroom reflect the onsens of old, while you can replicate the hot spring experience by running a hot water bath scented with seasonal yuzu aromatherapy bags filled with the actual fruit. After which you can lounge on your very own engawa - on a day bed that looks out into the skyline and the pockets of greenery on the ground. Or pad downstairs in your bathrobe to the spa or take a swim in the breathtaking 30 metre indoor pool which looks out into the horizon so you can pretend you're floating among the clouds reflected on the water's surface.
Such space is a luxury in Tokyo and you pay for it - rooms run upwards of 90,000 yen (S$1,024) a night (you can save some money by using the Tokyo metro to get around - the Otemachi station is just downstairs with a good many lines to choose from). There are 84 rooms - small for a city hotel but large for an Aman - spread over the 34th to 38th floors. But big or small, city or exotic hideaway, the lure of Aman hospitality is - expense notwithstanding - really hard to resist.
Aman Tokyo, The Otemachi Tower
1-5-6 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku,
Tokyo 100-0004, Japan
(81) 03 5224 3333
The writer's stay was partly hosted by Aman Tokyo.
This article was first published on Feb 28, 2015.
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