Aman Tokyo, Tokyo
Room type: Aman Suite
Duration: 13th > 16th December, 2017
Booked with: Dorsia Travel
There are too many cities where there is not an abundance of choice and I end up back at the usual gigs, even if I did not have a great or even mildly adequate previous stay. It’s like growing up in a town with only one bar and even though you always come home smelling of someone’s urine, it’s either that or stay in listening to Alan Titchmarsh. Prague with the Four Seasons; Sydney with the Park Hyatt; Tokyo with Aman. We even tried The Peninsula in Tokyo, only to feel repulsed by the decor, service, inflexibility and the cut of their jib. It will never cease to amaze me how a luxury brand can go from hero to dancing on my newly formed grave that I wish I was in. Sometimes it feels like the customer service manual was put together by two people: one holding the crayons and the other the paper.
Yet Aman was still the only choice, for it offered one of the best hard products of any city hotel. It had to be the best place in Tokyo to celebrate a 30th birthday. Surely 2 years later the service would have improved, I mused to myself. Well, to everyone’s amazement, but most notably mine, it had. It had suddenly become an Aman in form, rather than just name. The entire experience was a delight, from the initial welcome, to the unbelievable farewell. Except maybe that cultural stubbornness of exactness. There are no films about maverick Japanese cops, but if there were it would be a guy that showed up a minute late to work, and then only did 30 minutes free overtime to make up for his error, whilst spending the middle act apologising to everyone.
One thing I will take away from Japan is that nothing is free. Everything must follow the book. There is even a book on how to follow the book. Each book is available in well known high-street stores. Whereas The Peninsula Paris just went all out for room setup for Valentine’s Day, Aman Tokyo went about it with the generosity of Scrooge’s eviler twin brother for a 30th birthday celebration.
Yet let me focus on the positive, for a change.
The concierge and I were in frequent contact prior to arrival, with a seamless response to all enquiries. Having said that, they did send me to Vesta, a restaurant that cost £400 for lunch, where we were the only people there, where there was no English menu, no one spoke English, and we had no idea how to order. But I’m being positive, so let me tell you how it was one of the finest steaks I’ve ever eaten. Can I really blame Aman Tokyo for this? Yeah, sure, why not. Yet once again positivity: their recommendations for Nashiazabu Taku, a 2 Michelin star sushi restaurant was easily amongst my top meals of 2017. But going back a step, we plotted a beautiful collection from the airport, where the driver would handover a single rose to me, in order to hand to my beloved. Then, when we arrived in the room, a further 29 roses would be waiting, to signify the day since she burst through her mothers genitals. A new era of romance was born.
Before all of this, and before we arrived to the room, a group of excited staff stood waiting for us downstairs with a happy birthday sign. I may hire them to greet me at every hotel I visit now on. It’s must be what it feels like to be a rock star, just with the actual ability to feel something other than needle injections. They had followed the protocol to the letter: this was not a birthday but a birthweek; celebrate every day like it’s your last. Could anything make you feel more welcome than a group of excited Japanese men and women rejoicing at your arrival? No, actually. A new era of guest arrival was born. I am a goddamn trend setter.
Once we were taken upstairs, we were rushed through to our room like a mythological beast called age was trying to catch us. The efficiency of check-in is really something, and is one of the areas that impressed me last time. Even though we arrived around 8:30am, we did not have to wait for our room. So the anticipation built up, and we awaited to see the room setup for this special occasion. Annnnd just like Amanjena, they did everything, except provide any food or drink requested. They did make it clear that all non-alcoholic items in the minibar are free, then try and bill us for drinking a juice on checkout. 2015 me would have accepted it as my default; 2017 me manned up, looked them square in the eye, and asked them to speak to my girlfriend about it. They promptly removed it from the bill.
We booked a Suite, but got moved to the other side of the building on the second night due to what I can only describe as the sound of a colony of seals being harpooned outside of our window – a never ending noise of nearby construction due to the 2020 Olympics. A noise that only stopped when I invited staff into the room to hear it. The most Japanese response I have ever seen to a complaint was the Front Office Manager suggesting they will ask their Head of Engineering to ask the construction site to stop making noise. I would have cut out a kidney if I could have been a Japanese-speaking fly-on-the-wall to hear that conversation. Moving us was a slightly easier option and did the trick, although if we were in the living room it was possible to still hear the noise at times.
The room itself, along with the hard product across the entire hotel, is celestial. If this is what you get as a reward for being a good person, then sign me up for some community service. I have spoken at length before of my love of the room, so I will not bother you much more with it. It is one of my favourite city hotels in the world. But is it worth it? Well, no to that too. I would definitely not pay for an Aman Suite, as you end up paying a huge premium over a Suite (approx 100,000 JPY) just for a dining room table and slightly different view, both of which are obstructed by new buildings. Perhaps I’m remembering it wrong, but it feels like the view is obstructed more than during my previous stay due to the construction of yet more skyscrapers. Fortunately the Japanese population is declining, so if you come back in a hundred years or so they can demolish them.
But is a Suite worth it? I don’t think so either. You get the same bedroom as a Premium Room, yet get an extra living room next door that we never used. I don’t think there’s another hotel in the world I would not recommend a suite, and I see a lot of chatter regarding how expensive Aman Tokyo is which focuses on this. But if you factor in that their basic room is 71 sqm then it’s not exactly overpriced like Enron stock, is it?
But the real reason for my hesitation in rebooking was that last time the service sucked. It had as much in common with an Aman as Jeremy Clarkson has with Green Peace. This time it could not have been anymore different. This time it was close to perfection.
- Whilst at the pool, the sun kept chasing us, so we kept moving to avoid it and each time they magically showed up immediately and moved all our things across.
- Whenever we sat down in the spa, someone turns up with cold towel and bottled water. They even turned up to provide an Aman bag at one point, as they saw our existing, crummy bag that was cramping the style of the other guests.
- The recovery for noise complaint was insane: upgraded to highest room and comp one way transfer to restaurant. We received an apology from 3 senior staff. My general conclusion of this? They had a staff party and felt guilty as that one guy doing a seal impression wouldn’t stop. It was funny the first time, just not by 4am, guys.
- Staff who saw us walking towards the elevator would rush over to hold the door open for us.
- The waitress remembered our beverages from the day before and asked if we wanted the same
- Staff began applauding Lucie whenever they saw her on her big three zero.
- The spa team all signed a Happy Birthday card, as did the Front Office team on another.
And then we had our goodbye. A complimentary car transfer to Tokyo station, whereby the Front Office Manager actually came with us, queued to purchase our tickets, then carried our luggage to the platform, waited for the train to arrive, then put our luggage on board and wished us well, with no expectation of a tip. I really do not think there are words to describe how amazing that is, but maybe the sound of a puppy learning to bark comes close.
Even the food was much, much better. As someone that hates the taste of alcohol, my options are somewhat restricted, so I am confident that I am, and will remain for some time, the worlds connoisseur of strawberry milkshakes. And I have little doubt in my mind that Aman Tokyo will be honoured to hear they are definitely top 3. Breakfast was wonderful, but for lunch my main course of gnocchi was so small that I would have hated to even imagine what the starter portion looked like. It would likely be the remains of my main, given to another table. When I asked for the difference, they told me it, once again, the most Japanese form known to man: they actually count the number of pieces of gnocchi. Your starter portion has 6, whereas your main has 12. You are fortunate that Tokyo has the greatest food in the world, as otherwise as a greedy Westerner you may starve.
So what will I pull out of my book to criticise them for? I thought you’d never ask. How about the fact that whenever you call for room service you have to tell them your room number. Ahha, I got you, Aman! I went through your dirty underwear draw and found this horrible secret. The morning shift was clearly not quite awake – so unenthusiastic they were when delivering the birthday cake they may as well have shouted “anyone order a cake? anyone got a birthday around here?” as he entered. Such a contrast compared to everyone else, that acted like their newborn was coming. Let’s assume he was having a bad day, having been kept awake from the seal colony, and he just needed a hug.
And whilst I cannot criticise them for it, I can still state that I do not like the steam room and Japanese bath being single sex, even if the bath must be at least 438C – the perfect temperature. It’s just so boring sitting in a warm bath by yourself for anything more than 18 seconds.
Aman Tokyo always had one of the best hard products of any city hotel in the world, yet previously it severely lacked in the hospitality department. So much so, I moved to the Mandarin Oriental last time and was blown away by the service. This time it’s all changed. It now feels like they have hired from the right places and brought over the right mindset to deliver a world class product. It bodes well for New York, their next city location, which opens in 2020. If Aman can deliver world class service there, a Nobel prize cannot be that far away.
What an entitled view of the world. Big sigh.
I stumbled upon this review by accident and read it in full out of curiosity. I have stayed at Aman Tokyo twice, and although I prefer their more unique properties for which they were originally known (Amangiri and Amanjiwo are two of the favorites), Aman Tokyo is undoubtedly a very nice hotel.
However, back to the review itself. Despite a forced attempt at humor in your post, I have to agree with the previous comment. Big sigh. I don’t know your circumstances, but you sound like someone who (having previously lead a life of modest means) suddenly won a lottery or got an inheritance and now can get ‘everything money can buy’. And so you really believe the staff burst into singing/clapping because they were genuinely super excited to see you. And so you pout when someone delivers a cake without a display of fake emotion. And so you don’t cringe at a ‘happy birthday’ sign outside or at a chauffeur handing you a rose that you pass on to your spouse. How tacky. If only humbleness and class could be bought.