AMAN Tokyo- An Urban Retreat
Salarymen in their dark suits give me sympathetic smiles as I shuffle past, trying not to make eye contact with them. I don’t want to admit that I am now that girl lugging three bags in the pouring rain with my iPhone in hand, running around the financial district of Tokyo slightly lost while trying to get to my destination– Aman Tokyo.
I finally arrive at 3:23 p.m., slightly miserable and rather drenched, but as soon as the elevator door opens to reveal the hotel lobby on the 33rd floor my shoulders relax and a sigh of relief escapes. I take one step forward and turn left, my gaze naturally drawn towards the six-story-high washi paper lantern ceiling, the play of light, and the seasonal ikebana arrangement in the center bringing warmth and serenity to the expansive open space. I say “space”, but the layout can only be likened to a well-designed art museum. It takes me mere moments to realize that I’m in a different world now, both mentally and physically… Yet the grand entrance is only a hint of what you can expect at this urban sanctuary in the heart of Tokyo.
Aman Tokyo is one of three Aman hotels in Japan, all designed by the late Australian architect Kerry Hill. The hotel occupies the top six floors of the Otemachi Tower, and despite being located in Tokyo’s bustling business center it more than lives up to its reputation as a quiet, intimate retreat. Keeping to the theme of wellness, the hotel boasts a swimming pool with a gorgeous panoramic view of the city, a state-of-the-art fitness center where you can sweat out all your metropolitan vices, a luxurious spa with treatments that fuse modern beauty science with traditional kampo therapies, and studios for Pilates and yoga with expert trainers on hand.
Even if you decide not to actively participate in any of Aman Tokyo’s many wellness amenities, the hotel’s stylish, minimalist design alone is likely to put you in a state of serenity and bliss. The high ceilings in the hotel’s public areas and the natural light flowing in from the expansive windows in each of the 40 guest rooms radiates calm, which is something of a rarity in a city where even the most luxurious inner-city hotels can sometimes feel cluttered and claustrophobic. The washi paper screens, the ikebana arrangements placed decoratively around the hotel, the use of natural timber and stone… All of these subtle nods to minimal Japanese design evoke a sense of peace and balance. I always say that true wellness lies in how a space makes you feel and lets you breathe, and Aman Tokyo embodies that concept perfectly.
Naturally, the theme of wellness extends into the hotel suites as well. For starters, you can choose to enjoy the soaking tub in your room day or night, just as I did. The size of the tub is perfect for keeping the bath water warm, the hotel’s original hinoki scented bath salts help get all the kinks and knots out of your muscles, and the floor-to-ceiling windows allow you to enjoy a breathtaking view of the city. From the time I arrived at the hotel tired and bedraggled to the time I left the next day bright-eyed and refreshed, I had partaken in five luxurious trips to the tub. My bath time ritual is usually accompanied by the smooth sounds of Eryka Badu or D’Angelo, but on this occasion I sat in silence, because the heat of the bath and the never-ending Tokyo skyline spoke volumes. She spoke softly and confidently, and in a reassuring tone whispered, “you’re in good hands, we got you”.
Being in the Michelin capital of the world tempted me to step outside for my meals, but then I realized I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving. Instead, I stayed and dined at Arva, the Italian restaurant on the lobby floor run by chef Masakazu Hiraki.Hiraki-san has visited farmers and fishermen in all parts of Japan, and through established relationships with them, he and his Arva team focus on serving seasonal and sustainably-sourced Italian cuisine with a Japanese emphasis on clean, refined flavours. Indulging in a full course meal solo didn’t bother me at all, and in that expansive establishment, seeing all the different people gathered at their tables, I felt like I was just one of many stories unfolding at the hotel that night. We came from all walks of life, all sorts of experiences, but what we had in common was the beautiful Aman Tokyo as our backdrop. With that thought, I lifted my wine glass alone and toasted to the city of Tokyo herself.
The next day at 10:00 a.m., after hitting the gym and partaking of a delicious in-room breakfast, I had every intention to go out and roam the city before my lunch date with friends. I glanced outside to find that, unlike the day before, the skies were blue, and the day had dawned on a promising Tokyo morning. Despite my plans, I walked towards the bathroom and stared at the tub, and again she cooed softly for me to stay.
After bath number five, I finally left the hotel. I was rejuvenated, a whole lot drier, but more than that… I also had a new-found appreciation for Tokyo. There’s just something about seeing the city in such a calm and relaxed state of mind that aids in discovering a different perspective.
I have returned to the Aman Tokyo many times since that stay, for coffee, for lunch, and for a glass of wine. Also one time I went back to dine at the hotel’s sushi restaurant ‘Musashi’ since I missed out dining there during my stay. Chef Musashi is a multi-talented chef (he makes his own plates AND he plays the drums), his creativity can be experienced through his innovative sushi creations. A divine dining experience overlooking the skyline of Tokyo.
Every time my heart is craving serenity, I catch a subway to the Aman Tokyo, where the design and omotenashi hospitality bring me a sense of peace and inspiration.
Aman Tokyo truly is a “retreat beyond the clouds”.
Words: Sara Aiko
Photography: Sara Aiko