In December 2018, I checked into the Premier Room at Aman Tokyo, the first urban outpost from the widely-acclaimed ultra-luxury hotel brand known for its remote and exotic Asian resorts. Situated on levels 33-38 of Otemachi Tower in Tokyo’s financial district and minutes away from both Otemachi and Tokyo Station, the 84-room hotel brands itself as a sanctuary and a serene escape from the bustle of the metropolis, and you could not find descriptors more apt.
I made this booking under Mr & Mrs Smith and was entitled to breakfast for two at Arva, the hotel’s Italian restaurant, as a Smith Extra.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Magnificent, game-changing, definition-defying ultra-luxury in Otemachi Tokyo.
The must-dos (if any): Enjoy afternoon tea at The Lounge by Aman, have a relaxing onsen experience at Aman Spa, enjoy the breathtaking views from your room as you take a private bath.
As you exit the elevator on the 33rd floor, you are greeted by an unforgettable, breathtaking visual: a 30-metre tall “lantern” (a hollow roof wallpapered with seemingly glowing white washi paper rising six floors through the centre of the lobby atrium) suspends over a zen garden, which comprises a seasonal ikebana flower arrangement in the middle of a water pond along with two rock gardens. During my winter visit, the floral centrepiece played it all Tilda Swinton in its glacial drama.
The very minimalist proceedings limits itself to Japanese traditional textures of wood, paper and stone. A lady in a kimono, seated along a verandah-like raised walkway, plays the koto (Japanese zither) with a sense of affected urgency. Tall partitions loosely separate the dining concepts on the lobby level – Italian concept Arva as well as the hotel’s Lounge and Bar – which are all gloriously illuminated by floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views of the Tokyo skyline.
The cold stone walls, impossibly high ceilings and ethereal grandeur of the lobby experience alone makes the premises feel like the celestial fortress of a demi-god rather than simply ultra-luxurious accommodation for mere mortals like myself.
Other concepts on the lobby floor include cigar lounge Fumoir as well as the hotel’s Boutique, which stocks both partner retail products as well as Aman-branded merchandise and selections from the Aman skincare range.
The airy and spacious 80sqm Premier Room plays it all traditional Japanese home meets rustic ryokan inn, with light woods, sliding shoji doors, earthy ceramics and traditional calligraphy. (Do not mistake the quaint proceedings for backwardness – a hidden flatscreen TV emerges from the table-top at the press of a remote control button like magic, and the room is equipped with a Bose sound system as well as controls for your lights, blinds and curtains.) The king-sized bed directly faces the floor-to-ceiling windows, which present a panoramic view of Tokyo Skytree and the East Tokyo skyline. Steps on both sides of the bed lead down to the minibar, a dining table and a window-side daybed which is perfect for red wine-fuelled and pensive Lost in Translation-esque moments staring into the red and white light-specked distance after night falls.
The mini-bar stocks canned beverages, wines and juices as well as bottles of traditional Japanese crackers. Tea and coffee-making facilities, as well as a Nespresso coffee machine, are also available.
One of the Premier Room’s key features is its traditional stone bath, which is modelled after the traditional Japanese furo deep-soak bath. The bath experience comes equipped with generous quantities of woody – almost whisky-esque – Japanese cypress bath salts as well as a paper manual with instructions on bathing and Japanese bathing etiquette (“Disrobe…rinse your body, start with the feet and shins, then onto your legs…”). The hot bath is intended for warmth, relaxation, improving blood circulation as well as healing the body from tension and fatigue. Any soaping and removal of shameful bodily filth is meant to be done separately, using either the Oke wood bucket whilst sitting naked on a stool or the available modern shower facilities, with double vanities and Aman’s house range of bath amenities at your disposal.
As the hotel was informed prior to my arrival that my stay coincides with my birthday week, the staff thoughtfully prepared for me a platter of chocolates as well as a bottle of red wine for the occasion.
WELLNESS AND AMAN SPA
The 2,500sqm zen-like Aman Spa spans two entire floors, comprising a Japanese bath, steam room and eight treatment rooms. Their signature treatments, ranging from body scrubs and acupressure facials to hot stone massages and herbal foot baths, incorporate kampo (Japanese traditional medicine), seasonal herbs and local oils.
On the wellness front, guests have access to a fitness centre, yoga and pilates studios, changing rooms with steam rooms and a traditional onsen-style stone bath, as well as a sleek 30-metre indoor pool, most of which offer breathtaking views of urban Tokyo.
The swimming pool is all sorts of magnificent, resembling a celestial fortress of a demi-god in the day and transforming into a futuristic J-RPG final boss dungeon at night, with the formidably soaring pillars seemingly penetrating the white heavenly skies above. I was advised by the staff that a magical glimpse of Mt. Fuji might be possible from the pool at 6.30am every morning if the skies feel particularly charitable that day.
Elsewhere, unlike international business hotels like Conrad Tokyo, the hotel is firm about its onsen nudity policies, so I had to strip away all modesties before I could revel in the red-faced, sweaty and deep breathing aquatic proceedings. Fortunately, like your in-room Japanese furo deep-soak bath, there are shower stalls available post-onsen such that it is not necessary to go through the (very public) traditional bucket-and-stool bathing ritual.
Breakfast at the hotel is served at Arva, the Italian restaurant on the lobby floor which plays it all clean-lined wood partitions and magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows which extend beyond 98 feet in height. Guests can opt for either a traditional Japanese breakfast (think baked seasonal fish, Japanese rolled omelet with grated radish, marinated seasonal vegetable and steamed rice or congee, with seasonal fruit) or an American-style breakfast comprising your choice of three pieces of side meat (I opted for crispy bacon, black pepper bacon and Canadian bacon) along with a bread basket and fruit plate. Arva prides itself on its use of locally-sourced ingredients rooted in Italian family-style techniques, and sample offerings include wild boar ragout with truffle, grilled barracuda with roasted cauliflower and anchovy, ravioli with sparkling enope squid (i.e. firefly squid) with fava beans.
Just next door is the Lounge by Aman, the hotel’s lounge and bar which overlooks the Imperial Palace Gardens. The lounge is a popular destination for their picturesque Black Afternoon Tea, which dramatically juxtaposes the lounge’s monochromatic sensibilities with the bright, eye-popping colours of the sweet and savoury afternoon tea offerings – think berry and plain scones, mixed berry soup with champagne espuma, truffle quiche, celeriac mont blanc, snow crab sandwich, chicken fricassée, colourful petit sweets (your choice of four from a selection presented within a travel trunk) and a Christmas Ball encasing pastille surprises. Not since Peacock Alley at Waldorf Astoria Bangkok has an afternoon tea experience so tantalised my senses, both visual and gustatory.
The adjacent Bar area sees mixologists serving tipples with a decidedly Japanese slant. Bar counter seats directly face the Tokyo skyline, and the glorious view is best exploited in the evening when guests can partake in confessional whispers over seasonal cocktails – I have come across both strawberry as well as black-themed cocktail menus – while appreciating the splendid transitional sunset experience. Savoury bites are also available for the peckish.
Located on the ground floor, The Café by Aman offers casual French cuisine by an “Otemachi Forest” lush setting at the base of the office tower, while the latest concept to join the property, Musashi by Aman, serves exquisite sushi over a Hinoki wooden counter.
The hotel offers a revelatory, game-changing, ultra-luxurious sanctuary experience which would likely redefine and recalibrate one’s expectations towards luxury hotel accommodation. I simply cannot wait to experience another Aman property.
The Otemachi Tower
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0004