RUNNER UP: BEST DATE-NIGHT BAR – MR & MRS SMITH AWARDS 2017
Luxury hotel Aman Tokyo nods to the traditional in its decor – the lobby, designed by Kerry Hill, mirrors the layout of a traditional home, complete with meditation garden, below backlit shoji paper serving as a giant skylight – but wows with its thoroughly modern metropolis views from its vast floor-to-ceiling windows. And then there’s that Qi-realigning spa, and some of the best Italian food in the city, thanks to Venetian-trained chef Masakazu Hiraki.
Noon, and earliest check-in is 3pm; both are flexible, subject to availability, if requested a day in advance. Luggage storage is available for guests arriving early or departing late.
Double rooms from £799.49 (JPY113,850), including tax at 26.5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional room tax of JPY200.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates for non-Smith members generally exclude breakfast (JPY4,746 traditional Japanese breakfast or an American-style breakfast with juice, yogurt, fruit and a choice of egg dishes.)
Try the hotel’s famous black afternoon tea. The popular pastime garners over 100 reservations a day, so book ahead.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, WiFi, Bose sound system, minibar with free bottled water, tea- and coffee-making facilities, Nespresso coffee machine and Aman bath products. Suites also have wine fridges.
Our favourite rooms
You really can’t go wrong with room choices: all are impressively-sized by Tokyo standards, look out over the city and have classic Japanese minimalist design. If pushed, we’d take a Corner Suite to extend our panoramic views, but you’ll be able to indulge in long hinoki (Japanese Cypress) bath-salt soaks in oversized volcanic-rock bathtubs in any of Aman’s rooms; each has a volcanic gembu-rock tub and handy step-by-step instructions on how to properly perform the traditional bathing ritual.
Enjoy panoramic city views with your leisurely morning laps in the hotel’s 33m long indoor swimming pool: the entire high-ceilinged room and the pool itself are tiled in impressive black volcanic rock, and double-day beds are lined up along the floor-to-ceiling windows. The pool is heated in the winter, lifeguard-supervised from 6.30am to 10pm, and family friendly.
High above the bustle of Tokyo’s central business district, the zen-like Aman Spa embraces a philosophy of balance and harmony with nature; it has a Japanese bath, steam room and eight treatment rooms, two of which are for couples. Choose from a range of treatments, including hot stone massages, reflexology and acupressure facials, or splurge on a seasonal journey spa treatment with your significant other. Each journey starts with an herbal foot bath and a breathing exercise with calming Kuromoji oil, then is followed by a 90-minute massage with a 30-minute body scrub or wrap, or a 60-minute massage combined with a 30-minute body scrub and a 30-minute body wrap. Afterwards, bliss out in the spa’s city-view relaxation area.
Bring your monochrome silks and impeccable suits to complement your surroundings.
The spa also has a light-filled fitness centre for cardio and weight training, and a yoga and pilates studio with Allegro Reformers; private classes can be arranged on request.
Little Smiths are welcome, but not particularly catered to. Babysitting is available for JPY7,000 per hour, baby cots and highchairs can be provided on request, and supervised children are welcome in the pool.
In the restaurant, go for a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows for views of the Imperial Palace Garden and, on clear days, Mt Fuji in the distance. At the downstairs café, the foliage-side alfresco tables are most in demand.
Wear a printed flowy dress for breakfast in the restaurant or lunch in the café, and an all-black or all-white ensemble from Dover Street Market for dinner and drinks in the evening.
The Restaurant by Aman is helmed by chef Masakazu Hiraki, who trained in Venice and pairs local vegetables, meats and seafood with imported Italian ingredients. The menu focuses on seafood and pasta dishes, including saffron tagliolini, hokkaido prawns and Italian-style grilled Wagyu steak; we particularly like the three Ts – porcini trofie, T-bone and tiramisu. Open to both guests and non-residents, the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows give a shimmering city backdrop for romantic evening meals, and a semi-open kitchen provides a dynamic glimpse of drama. Japanese and American-style breakfasts are also served in the restaurant, which is light-filled and calm in the mornings. On the ground floor of the building, dainty Aman Café serves lunches of casual French fare. It usually attracts a sizeable crowd looking for galettes and beef cheek ragout from nearby offices.
With design echoing the inside of a traditional paper lantern, the Lounge by Aman looks out over the Imperial Palace Gardens. A line of shoji paper lanterns glows softly above the bar, beckoning patrons to place orders for expertly prepared drinks and light bites. In the evenings, relax in the serene lounge-with-a-view as jazz music plays; nurse a whiskey à la Bill Murray (but leave pink wig wearing for later). There’s also a cigar lounge and an in-demand afternoon tea.
Gaze out over the city as you sip your morning coffee from 6.30am to 10.30am, mingle with the business district’s lunch crowd in the café from 11.30am to 2.30pm, and enjoy sumptuous Italian dinners from 5.30pm to 10pm.
Order snacks and drinks to your room at any time of day or night, or simply ransack your in-room minibar.
Aman Tokyo is on the top six floors of 38-storey Otemachi Tower in the city’s central business district.
Haneda Airport, which mostly receives domestic flights, is a 40-minute drive away; arrange transfers to the hotel for JPY 25,000-36,000 each way, depending on car type. Narita International Airport is a 90-minute drive away; transfers to the hotel range from JPY47,000 to 63,000 each way.
Tokyo’s bullet trains stop at Shinkansen station, from which you can easily head to other must-see cities (www.jreast.co.jp). Arrange transfers with the hotel (JPY36,000 each way) for the 60-minute drive.
The hotel is a two-minute drive from the Kandabashi exit of the Tokyo Inner Circular Route, and onsite valet parking is JPY5,000 a day. It is, however, much easier to rely on public transport.
Worth getting out of bed for
Otemachi-central Aman Tokyo is on the doorstep of the verdant Imperial Palace Gardens a green expanse that surrounds the ruins of Edo Castle. If you prefer to stroll around the shops, bustling and boutique-filled Ginza is nearby. Nihonbashi, the historic commercial hub of the Edo period, is also nearby, as are the buzzing Shibuya district and the skyscraper-filled Shinjuku district. Rise and shine to explore the Tsukiji Fish Market with sushi chef Mr ‘Taisho’ Oba, then visit his diminuitive and incredibly popular restuarant, Sushi Kokoro, for a dinner of the morning’s picks. Arrange a visit to iconic Mt Fuji, a Unesco World Heritage Site, or take a private Iaido session to learn graceful martial art manoeuvres and Samurai etiquette.
Low key Chibo is best for okonomiyaki teppanyaki – filled and grilled savoury pancakes. For takeaway lunch sushi, stop by Kyubey on Ginza’s main street; at dinner, order one of their set course sushi kaiseki options for the best variety (+81 33571 6523). The pillars and beams of teppanyaki restaurant Ukai-Tei are made from 100-year-old Japanese elm originally used in a merchant's home in Kanazawa 150 years ago. Choose from Japanese black beef, carefully selected seafood and seasonal vegetables, all cooked in front of you on a hot teppan grill.
Stop by sweet shop Higashiya Ginza for mamegashi (sweet bean snacks), monaka (long rice wafers filled with bean jam, peanut cookies and other goodies. The shop also sells dainty homewares and tea-making accoutrements. Enjoy afternoon tea at modern salon the Sabo Teahouse; you can also choose from a variety of confectioneries, light bites and liquors.
A personalised cocktail tasting experience awaits you at Gen Yamamoto; the cocktails are concocted to suit your preferences, and all use seasonal local fresh produce and fine liquors.
It’s fair to say Mrs Smith and I were excited. She was born in Tokyo and hadn’t been back in more than 30 years. For me, as a chef, Japan’s capital is the green mile, the yellow brick road and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, all rolled into one. I’d wanted to go for at least ten years but with work and a very busy schedule it’s been practically impossible. Until I opened a restaurant in Asia, anyway…
Given we were fitting our Tokyo trip around work, then, we needed to be sure we were hitting all the right spots. For me it was all about food, food and more food; Mrs Smith wanted to ensure we were also getting a good dose of culture, history and temple viewing, too.
We touched down on a Saturday evening in late May, the very beginning of the Sakura season, and hopped in a cab from the airport. When we arrived, our jaws dropped a little at our £200 fare. The waiting doorman explained that unfortunately that was the rate; most people take a quick and easy train.
As soon as we stepped out of the elevator and into the 35th-floor lobby, though, we forgot all about that rookie mistake. Nothing we saw or experienced in the Aman Tokyo from that point onwards was short of fabulous.
We were greeted with huge beaming smiles and customary Japanese bows and escorted to our room, without any of the usual hassles of checking in. Our suite was so tastefully done; natural woods, great furniture and the most amazing views of Tokyo by night. Delicious sushi rolls were waiting for us in the dining area, along with a chilled bottle of aged sake – we duly obliged.
Then there was the bathroom, with its traditional Japanese granite tub and shower in front of huge plate glass windows with more breathtaking Tokyo views. The bath was so inviting, we had to get right in, carefully following the instructions for the salts and other beautifully packaged accompaniments. Relaxed, we tucked ourselves into bed and fell asleep in seconds.
When we woke up and opened the blinds, we were greeted by the most beautiful sunrise and a panorama of the city by day – just as mesmerizing as the night view. After some breakfast, we stopped by the concierge desk before heading off for the day. They couldn’t have been more helpful – in fact, they played a vital role in restaurant bookings (which can be extremely tricky) and general advice on how to sequence all the sights and activities we wanted to pack in.
Our two days in Tokyo were amazing: we ate like kings and walked like mountain goats from north to south; east to west. One highlight (despite it involving us getting up at 4am) was Tsukji, the Tokyo fish market. I’d organized it with super-chef Namae-San – we had a little walk around the market first, then we were taken into the (bitterly cold) tuna auctions. It was a remarkable site to watch – the auctioneers stood on their little wooden stools, rang a bell and then it was off. They got the buyers in an excited frenzy and boy did it work: the tuna sold faster than I could say John West.
Because we were on our strict self-imposed timetable and had so many things to do, places to see and restaurants to try, our only regret was that we wouldn’t be spending enough time at the hotel itself. One thing we weren’t going to miss out on, though, was a visit to the spa.
It comprised eight treatment rooms, large Japanese hot baths, a stunning 30-metre city-view pool and a fitness centre, all in an extraordinary light-filled sanctuary set high among the skyline. We shared an amazing (and well deserved) massage during which we both nodded off (always a good sign).
Afterwards, we took an evening dip in the black granite-hewn pool, which we somehow had all to ourselves. After a few lengths we looked at each other as if to say ‘how do we ever leave’?
Before we headed to dinner, we managed to sneak in a cocktail or two at the fumoir bar where elegant lounging chairs and sofas were slumped in and barmen hustled their corners. The city is very well known for its whiskies (dozens of bottles lined the walls), so I had a house-mixed cocktail and one of my favorite classics: a whisky sour. Both were sublime.
A quick day-and-a-half detour to Kyoto followed, for more food, markets, temples and knife buying, before our Japan trip was drawing to an end – far too quickly, of course. We’d initially planned to try another venue for our last night back in Tokyo, but then thought we should end on the highest possible note.
And so it was that we checked back into the Aman, where the amazing surroundings, the consistent impeccable service and the many smiles made our stay a most memorable one. When (not if) we come back, we know exactly where we’ll be heading. Next time we’ll take the train from the airport, though…
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Aman Tokyo’s Guestbook below.