Designs of the times
It’s surprising Amanresorts has taken so long to arrive in Japan. Well known for its minimalist, intelligent interiors, and a refined sense of place, the luxury resort group’s aesthetic feels right at home in Tokyo. Aman opened its only urban oasis six months ago, colonising the top six floors of the gleaming Otemachi Tower in the financial district near Ginza. Designed by theAustralian firm and Amanresorts favourite, Kerry Hill Architects, the serene, cathedral-size lobby and large guestrooms are a contemporary and striking homage to classic Japanese design. Soaring six levels through the heart of the hotel, the lobby centrepiece resembles the delicate interior of a Japanese lantern. Boulders from northern Japan have been arranged as traditional rock gardens. The spare and very Zen guestrooms command city or Imperial Palace views and feature sliding shoji screens and oversized bathrooms with a large furo (deep Japanese soaking tub) set at the floor-to-ceiling window. Guestroom size is generous — starting at 71 sq m, even the least expensive chambers are claimed to be the most commodious in the capital. The two-level day spa is the largest hotel facility of its kind in Tokyo; at its heart lies a glamorous 30m swimming pool and there are eight treatment rooms with private dressing rooms and yoga and Pilates studios. The level 33 restaurant affords long views all the way to Mount Fuji on a clear, blue day. More: amantokyo.com.
ANDAZ TOKYO TORANOMON HILLS
Perched even higher above Tokyo is the Andaz (the Hyatt Hotels “lifestyle” brand), which offers all sorts of value-added inclusions, such as gratis Wi-Fi, mini bar (excluding alcohol) and local telephone calls. Occupying levels 47 to 52 of Toranomon Hills, an upscale high-rise situated between the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Tower, the contemporary but very practical guestrooms (think an iron and board in every wardrobe) are courtesy of New York-based Tony Chi and Tokyo designer Shinichiro Ogata. They’ve married traditional motifs — sliding screens, soaking tubs and locally made linens — with hitech gadgetry. Guestrooms are lined in gleaming walnut and washi paper while the suites include a series of parti- tions allowing you to arrange the space as you wish. The day spa has a floating jet bath, gym, 20m swimming pool with views over the Imperial Palace and a team of “apothecary consultants” to help tailor your anti-ageing treatments. A spot of retoxing can then be enjoyed in the rooftop bar, on the glass-covered terrace overlooking Tokyo Bay. The bar is styled as a modern version of a traditional teahouse. More: tokyo.andaz.hyatt.com.
SURIAN, A LUXURY COLLECTION HOTEL, KYOTO
Starwood Hotels & Resorts has opened its first Luxury Collection hotel in Japan, a small ryokan-style property set on the Hozu River in the grounds of Kyoto’s World Heritage-listed 14th-century Tenryuji Temple. Providing easy access to the gorgeous Zen gardens and Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Surian was converted from an old government guesthouse and features 39 guestrooms, some with a traditional bathtub set in a green courtyard, and most with garden views. The handsome rooms combine a traditional aesthetic with contemporary comforts: gleaming timber trim, tatami mats and pops of jewel-like colour in the armchairs and cushions. The inn includes a day spa with open-air baths and a menu of traditional treatments, and the property incorporates two beautifully restored century-old buildings housing a cafe and fine dining restaurant where Japanese fare meets French flair. More: starwoodhotels.com.
KASARA NISEKO VILLAGE TOWNHOUSE
Malaysian-based YTL Hotels has opened eight designfocused townhouses in Japan’s powder mecca of Niseko Village on the northernmost island of Hokkaido. The first phase of a larger YTL development, the double-storey Kasara residences are perfect for families or a colony of ski bunnies heading off-piste together. Each apartment features three double bedrooms with ensuites and the tatami-floored dining room can be fitted with futons to sleep two additional children. While skiing is the focus here — each apartment offers a heated gear storage room, overnight ski and snowboard waxing and a free mountain induction — equal attention has been paid to the interiors. The ski-in, ski-out residences are the work of Design Intervention, inspired by homes from Japan’s seminal Edo period and embracing the principles of shibumi or shibusa (simplicity and naturalness). Even so, each apartment is luxuriously kitted out: think timber bathtubs and sliding screens. The fully equipped designer kitchen is stocked on request, or you can ask for a chef to drop by to whip up an après-ski feast. Ideally situated at the foot of Mount Niseko Annupuri, Kasara provides ready access to restaurants and boutiques and an on-call concierge is happy to organise private drivers, ski fittings, childminding and sports massages. More: kasara.com.
Christine McCabe is T & I’s senior contributing editor.
Clockwise from top left, Surian, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto; Aman Tokyo; Andaz Tokyo; Kasara Niseko Village Townhouse